LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - Copper theft is becoming a constant worry for farmers in Lonoke and surrounding counties. In the past, copper theft has typically been seen as an urban problem, but now Lonoke County farmer Matt Schafer says scrap metal thieves are targeting him and his fellow farmers.
"The copper thieves are coming in, whether it's underground wells or grain silos. They're coming in and cutting the wires and stripping every bit of the copper wire out," he explained.
Schafer said he's been hit several times by thieves and is now fighting back with high tech security.
"The one thing that we've done personally on our farm is put a lot of cameras up. We have security cameras. We have alarm systems monitored by ADT. We have done a lot of things to try to be proactive on our end," he described.
He's not the only one who's taken a hit. His neighbor across the highway suffered a huge loss just last week. Copper wiring that runs under huge grain silos were ripped out and frayed wire is all that remains.
"You'll have $300 worth of copper wire stolen, but for example a grain bin might cost $25,000 dollars to repair."
Schafer said on average it costs thousands of dollars to repair the damage, while thieves only make a couple hundred dollars in profit, and Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley said lawmakers need to step in and make stiffer penalties for those who purchase scrap metal.
"It's killing us. We need some legislation to put some teeth in holding the businesses that buy the copper that's stolen," added Staley.
Schaffer said until there's legislation to curb these thefts; he and his fellow farmers will work to protect their livelihoods
"But, what you see now is the farmers sitting up at night. People are taking turns, watching their grain bins. They're coming together. That's a good thing, but it's also a bad thing because what state legislators don't understand is that somebody is going to get killed," he included.
The Lonoke County Sheriff's Department said there have been 158 copper thefts reported to their department since January. Thirty of those have involved farming equipment damage.