Alabama farmers officially have another ally in the fight to protect land and property from criminals.
Gov. Robert Bentley formally announced creation of the state Agricultural and Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU) at Trotman Cattle Co. in Montgomery County.
Led by Lt. Gene Wiggins under direction of Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, the 10-man ARCU task force started working cases June 4. The unit is credited with 14 felony arrests and recovery of more than $500,000 of stolen equipment in six weeks on the job.
“Having a statewide unit concentrated on fighting agricultural crimes will allow Alabama farmers to focus on their daily work with fewer worries about theft,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
“The Federation is thankful Gov. Bentley and Secretary Collier recognize the challenges farmers and other rural residents face, and I have great confidence in Lt. Wiggins and the officers he assembled.”
For the announcement, Parnell joined other state agricultural leaders from Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, Alabama Agribusiness Council, Alabama Farmers Co-op, First South Farm Credit, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Alabama Rural Electric Association.
Bentley emphasized the importance of protecting farming and forestry, in part because of the $70.4 billion agriculture generates for Alabama’s economy.
He quoted FBI statistics stating the average amount of money taken during a typical bank robbery is $8,500 — less than 10 percent of the cost of some farm equipment.
“Theft creates a huge burden for our hard-working farmers,” Bentley said. “Every day, they live at the mercy of the land and the weather. They have little room for financial loss. Farmers are small business owners, and theft is a major setback to their businesses. We put this (unit) together to make sure our farmers are protected.”
The statewide unit specializes in investigating agricultural crimes including equipment and livestock theft, fraud and agroterrorism.
ARCU will work with local law enforcement offices, providing additional resources and specialized skills.
Trotman Cattle Co. Owner Bubba Trotman said he was delighted with the establishment of a rural crimes unit. “This is the best and most important thing that has happened to the cattle industry ever,” Trotman said.
“They’re going to do a real good job. We just feel safer with this unit.”
ARCU was established as part of an overall effort to streamline state law enforcement and investigative departments.
To report suspicious activity to ARCU, call 855-75-CRIME or visit ARCU.Alabama.gov.
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