COLES COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Farmers be warned: the sheriff’s department says you’re the target of copper burglars.
They’ve gotten more than a dozen calls in the last month, and say the suspects have caused tens of thousands of dollars in property damage.
But one farmer we spoke with says his biggest concern isn’t what was stolen from him. It’s the amount of people who don’t even know this is happening.
This isn’t the tour Larry Newby wanted to give of his farm.
“That was a spool of new wire that was in the shed, and they’ve brought it out here and unrolled it,” he says, pointing to a spool.
Then he looks inside one of his trucks.
“You can see there the big main wiring harness in the cab is gone right there.”
And one of his tractors was damaged.
“That’s about a 1940 tractor, it’s been modified over the years, so it’s not like you can go back to International and buy wiring. This is all gonna have to be put back together by hand and redone.”
Nothing was outright stolen, but nearly everything was gutted. Newby figures he hasn’t even seen all the damage yet.
“If we start looking for things, we’re gonna find some more stuff, we don’t know where it’s gonna end,” he says.
“I’ve never seen it where they actually went in and did so much damage to farm equipment, just carelessly cutting wires instead of stealing things,” says Tyler Heleine with the Coles County Sheriff’s Department.
They say most of the damage is being discovered on the east side of the county. So far, three have been arrested. Investigators say they’re cutting out copper wires to sell at recycling centers.
“A lot of these buildings that were targeted are buildings that are secluded, or away from residents,” says Heleine, “So we want farmers to go out and check their buildings to make sure they’re not a victim of this.”
Newby believes the amount of money the thieves sold his wires for is only a fraction of what it’ll cost him to repair his trucks and tractors, and he hopes his neighbors aren’t hit next.
“Something of this magnitude nobody’s seen in several years that I can remember,” he says, “Normally you’d hear one guy, and maybe a neighbor, or something, but to be clear across the county like it is…pretty good size.”
Investigators have been watching recycling centers closely. If you’re a farmer, they want you to check your building now. Don’t wait until the spring to make sure your equipment is in order.
Dale Jenkins, Roy Jenkins, and Christy Brady are charged with burglary. The sheriff’s department says they broke into several barns across the county. Investigators say besides copper, they took other scrapable items that are worth something at those recycling centers.