By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Agricultural & Rural Crime Unit (ARCU) has recovered 11 pieces of farm equipment totaling $489,041 in a raid in Etowah County. The equipment was stolen from six different states including Fla., La., Miss., Ark., Tenn. and N.C.
ARCU agents arrested Albertville residents Jody D. Morgan, 53, and Steven Ray Parker, 38, for receiving stolen property first-degree. Both men were booked at the Etowah County Detention Center with additional charges pending in Marshall County. Parker has been released on bond and Morgan is still being held Etowah County Detention Center.
ARCU Commander Gene Wiggins said, “Our agents specialize in agricultural and rural crimes and work closely with local law enforcement throughout the state.
Over the past year, ARCU agents have investigated over 100 cases and recovered more than $2 million in stolen property.
The ARCU partners with local law enforcement to investigate agriculture and rural crimes such as theft of farm animals, farm equipment, fraud, and agroterrorism. Under a directive from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), the ARCU was the first unit established as part of the consolidation of State law enforcement agencies and works directly out of the Office of the Secretary of Law Enforcement.
Previously the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries had their own team of investigators who specialized in rural crime. That unit was abolished when the Department of Agriculture and Industries Budget was hit with proration in 2011. The Republicans established ARCU to replace that unit when Bentley consolidated most of Alabama’s various police agencies.
Farm equipment like tractors, bulldozers, atvs, combines, equipment trailers etc. don’t have registration like automobiles have so it is much easier to move stolen equipment via auction or private sale, especially when it was stolen in another state. Livestock similarly are difficult to recover. A herd of cows can be grazing in a pasture, then rustlers back up to their field with livestock trailers and some portable panels, and a few hours later they are being dropped off at a stockyard and sold that day……often for hamburger.
Many counties have offered rewards to those that can provide leads tied to these cases. The Alabama Cattlemen’s Association offers a $1,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone caught stealing cattle from one of its member’s farm.
Governor Bentley told the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association last year that as part of his law enforcement consolidation plan, “We are going to create some agents that are specially trained to deal with agriculture and forestry crimes…They need to stay and be continually trained in this field of fighting cattle rustling, the theft of farm machinery, and cutting people’s timber without paying for it.”
If you have any information about a Rural Crime or to report a Rural Crime call 1-855-75CRIME.