Backing efforts to fight cattle rustling

Friday, January 11, 2013
Murray Bishoff, news editor

Driving through the country, one never knows anymore whose farm fields are at the side of the road. Often they belong to the farmer who lives a half-mile away at the visible house. Sometimes, it's somebody else's cows grazing there. If one of them gets out on the road, it's often unclear who needs to know.

Driving up on a cattle trailer being loaded in the middle of the night raises the same question: who needs to know?

Sometimes such activity is legitimate. Often it isn't. If every witness to suspicious activity made a quick cell phone call to authorities, we might make a dent in the problem. We also might see how really thin the ranks of county sheriffs' deputies can be stretched.

Let's face it: cattle rustling is big business. People who don't have cattle can help. Everyone can provide eyes and ears to stop the bad guys.

As the summit meeting on cattle theft in Lawrence County this week demonstrated, increased vigilance will only help, but it will take more.

Mixed messages over cattle thefts have let the trade flourish. Legislators have reluctantly passed laws with minimal penalties.

The crooks know the loopholes, cross state lines with impunity, hide the identifying markers and largely defy law enforcement to stop them.

The problem is serious. Cattle ranching is a critical business in southwest Missouri and the loss of chunks of a herd is devastating to area ranchers.

The public can help by watching, calling about suspicious behavior, writing down license numbers of cattle trailers moving at late hours, sending alerts about cattle trailers with no identifying plates and noting activity in fields late at night. The harder cattle theft becomes, the more likely the crooks are to stay away, or even land in jail.

Help to stop the cattle theft scourge. Police are better armed with too much information about cattle movements. If the people of southwest Missouri take cattle thefts seriously and stand with the often frustrated authorities working in the field, we could get a grip on the problem that could produce results.