Seven Theft Prevention Tips for Landowners
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s (TSCRA) 30 special rangers, stationed throughout Texas and Oklahoma, are busy handling cases involving millions of dollars of property.
Special Ranger Hal Dumas based in Franklin, Texas stopped long enough to give his seven tips for theft prevention. The best part? All are simple, and most won’t cost you a dime.
- Brand your cattle
Branding involves some time and money up front, but it’s a great way to keep animals from getting stolen or getting them returned if they’re stolen.
“Branding is just like taking out an insurance policy,” Dumas said. “Of course, nobody likes to buy insurance. If [a thief] sees that fresh brand high on the hip, they’re probably going to go down the road and find some calves that aren’t easy to identify.”
And calves are undoubtedly easy to identify, especially if they are branded high on the hip, Dumas said.
“We can see it [the brand] on them in the trailer riding down the road; we can see it in the pen or pasture where they are being held before sale. Even if the thief splits them up so the numbers won’t match and sells them in different parts of the state, it is still going to be in our brand system, and we’re going to be able to trace it back,” he said.
A branded animal is much harder for thieves to sell, too because if they take the animals to an auction market our guys are going to catch the brand—game over, Dumas said.
- X marks the spot
Just like branding cattle, marking equipment goes a long way in easing recovery.
Dumas recommended marking all equipment, either with a vehicle identification number or your driver’s license number, preferably in two places.
“A marking in an easily identified place (like the tongue of a trailer) serves as a deterrent while a marking in a more hidden location helps authorities identify the equipment if the thieves destroy the other marking,” he said.
- Post the blue
Sometimes all it takes to send a thief on his way is a blue piece of metal.
“One of the main things that the crooks have told us—and I know this sounds like a sales pitch, but it’s true—is have a Cattle Raisers’ blue sign on your gate,” Dumas said.
According to thieves, the posted sign is a deterrent that usually sends them driving to the next ranch.
“They don’t want to steal from those places because they know not only will the local law enforcement be working on it, but another statewide agency with connections all over the country will also be working on it,” he said.
TSCRA posted signs are available for lease to members for a one-time fee of $35. Secure a sign by returning the order form at tscra.org/tscra-member-center/shoptscra.html, or call the headquarters office at 800-242-7820.
- Lock your gates
One of the simplest things to deter thieves is locking your gates—at both ends for maximum effectiveness, Dumas said.
“A lot of people don’t lock both ends,” he said. “The thief can take the gate off the hinges on the unlocked end. It still won’t be impossible to get in, but it’s harder, so the thief may go to the next place.”
- Safeguard your entry
For locked gates to be most effective, the “secret” of how to unlock them must be guarded by giving the keys, combinations or security codes to the fewest number of people possible.
While Dumas doesn’t recommend combination locks, if you do use them change the combination on a semi-regular basis.
“Also, when you open that lock to drive through your gate, always turn the combination before driving through even if you’re going to be in there for only a few minutes,” Dumas said. “Someone can drive up, see the combination, leave without you knowing it and then they have the combination [for future use].”
He said gate codes should also be changed throughout the year and should always be stored somewhere safe.
“Otherwise, it’s like going to the ATM, putting your PIN in and leaving it on the screen for all to see.”
- Make their job harder
Thieves have lots of choices, and if it’s difficult to steal from you, they’ll find an easier target.
“They want something they can do fast and easy,” Dumas said. “If you can fix your property where they’re going to be visible coming in or out, and it’s going to be difficult for them to get your cattle or equipment, they’re going to find somewhere else to go.”
He advised cattlemen to place pens off the road making it difficult for crooks to pre-plan a theft.
“Crooks want to scope things out and be prepared when they come back to get your cattle,” Dumas explains. “Pre-existing knowledge of your setup gives those thieves a big advantage. If they can’t see your pens from the road, they won’t have that.”
Dumas also warned against creating overly gentle, come-running-to-the-pen-when-they-see-cubes cattle.
“If you can pen your cattle with a sack of cubes, a crook can, too,” Dumas said.
Looking for a compromise? If you must feed your cattle in pens, keep the pens locked when you are away, Dumas suggested.
- Be aware
Regularly checking on cattle and property is among the best ways to deter thieves and aid in recovery. The likelihood of getting your property back is much greater if you know it was stolen in the last 24 hours versus knowing it went missing sometime in the last 30 days, Dumas said.
“Keep an eye on things, and use the neighborhood watch system—watch your neighbors’ property and have them watch yours,” Dumas said. “[Being aware] makes a huge difference.”
For instance, if you lost six unmarked black calves and the special rangers know they were stolen the night before, they can check the next day’s sales for six black calves, he said. On the other hand, if the calves went missing a month ago, it is impossible for rangers to check all of the sales for six black calves.
“If it’s not Sunday, there’s a sale somewhere,” he said. “Most crooks steal them because they need the money, and most of them aren’t going to hold them for a while; they are going to go straight to the sale.”
For more theft prevention tips, visit tscra.org.
How to Report a Theft
If you have livestock or property stolen, take these steps for the best chance of recovery:
- Contact your local police or sheriff.
- Then contact your TSCRA special ranger. (Don’t know which ranger covers your area? Visit tscra.org and click on Theft & Law in the yellow navigation bar, or call TSCRA headquarters at 800-242-7820).
- Be prepared to answer as many of the questions below as possible:
- What is the case number assigned by your local law enforcement agency?
- What was stolen?
- When do you think the livestock or equipment was stolen? Can you estimate the time of day, the day of the week or a range of dates?
- When did you last see the missing livestock or equipment?
- Was there any physical evidence left at the scene?
- Were there any identifying marks on the livestock or equipment such as an ID number, driver’s license number, serial number, brand, ear tag, ear notches, marks or scars?
- Do you have photos?
- Do you have a suspect in mind?
- Have you seen any suspicious vehicles in your area? Can you describe them?
- Were there any witnesses? How can we contact the witness or witnesses?
by Katrina Huffstutler
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA)
Photos courtesy of TSCRA