As fuel costs keep climbing, farmers and police say thieves are beginning to target off-road diesel tanks kept in fields throughout south Arkansas.
In Desha County, about 3,000 gallons of off-road diesel have been reported stolen in six major thefts. The fuel was valued at about $12,600.
“They’re stealing diesel fuel from the tanks of power units that farmers use to irrigate their fields,” said Desha County Sheriff Jim Snyder, whose department is investing a string of thefts that began June 19.
“This is just something the price of fuel has done to us. We’re exercising extra patrols and using any means possible to put an end to this. I really want to catch these suckers,” Snyder told the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper.
Off-road diesel, which is exempt from some federal and state taxes, can be used by city and county road crews, construction companies and timber haulers.
Ashley County Sheriff David Johnson said deputies recently caught a father and son who allegedly pumped diesel from a farmer’s tank by using cameras hunters use to film wild game.
Many farmers have begun locking their fuel tanks, Johnson said. The sheriff said he is unsure of the actual amount of fuel stolen in his county as some farmers do not report the thefts.
The county has also had a problem with theft of small amounts of gasoline in five-gallon cans from people’s homes.
“It seems crazy, but some people are working for minimum wage and they have to drive to their job,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing more and more diesel thefts, and it’s going to continue with prices the way they are. I really think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The thefts aren’t limited to farmer fields. George Bozeman, owner of Bozeman’s Service Station in Lake Village, said someone pumped nearly 1,250 gallons of regular unleaded gas from his underground tank on a recent night. The fuel was valued at about $4,800.
“There’s no telling who did it because we’re right here by the state lines of Mississippi and Louisiana,” Bozeman said.
Information from: Pine Bluff Commercial, www.pbcommercial.com
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