A newly-formed state law enforcement agency has been founded, dedicated solely to the investigation of rural crimes in Alabama.
Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers understand that the Agriculture Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU) is operating under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture, and has already gotten to work on some larger cases of theft. And by larger, we're talking as big as a cow. Or more like several dozen cows, which were reported stolen at various cattle ranches in Lauderdale County.
The need for a separate state agency just to investigate farm and agriculture-related crimes was explained by the agency's new chief as stemming from the "lost art of communication between small town people and (local police)."
So essentially, because these two groups couldn't figure out how to talk to one another, a new government agency was formed.
Politics of the issue aside, we suspect that the formation of this unit will result in an increased number of investigations and arrests related to crimes occurring in rural Alabama. After all, the new agency and its employees are no doubt eager to prove the value of their jobs.
The ARCU is comprised of law enforcement officers and trained investigators who will specifically devote themselves to rural crimes. These individuals will assist local law enforcement agencies when needed, but will not be working directly with them on a daily basis.
Farmers' advocacy groups, including the First South Farm Credit, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, The Alabama Cattleman's Association, the Alabama Forestry Association, the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative Association have welcomed the formation of this unit.
As of right now, there will be a total of seven rural crime investigators stationed within different areas of the state. Operation of the unit began June 1.
Already, the agency is seeing some action. The biggest case currently on the plate is the theft of some 30 cattle stolen from a pasture in Murphy's Chapel. The suspects reportedly cut the fence, drove into the pasture and loaded the cattle up onto two separate trailers.
That was in mid-May.
A few weeks earlier, it was reported that suspects busted a lock on another farmer's gate and stole a number of other cattle.
Officials at local sheriff's offices say they are under-staffed for handling these types of complaints, so they have welcomed the addition of the new investigators.
The state previously had agricultural investigators. However, budget cuts in the state's Department of Agriculture and Industries left a number of positions vacant.
Now, unit members say they expect to deliver immediate results in the form of arrests and rural crime reduction.
Officials say rural crimes are often related, and are urging neighbors to cooperate by reporting any suspicious activity. Rural crime hotlines are being established.
As it stands, both the Alabama Cattlemen's Association and the Alabama Farmer's Federation offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cattle thieves targeting members of the respective groups.
Contact Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Newly formed rural crimes unit investigating Alabama cattle thefts, June 10, 2013, By Jeff Helms, Alabama Farmers Federation