Sumner County Farmers Hurt By Battery Thefts

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Friday, September 7, 2012

As if Kansas farmers fighting the drought didn't face enough trouble this year, now they're finding themselves targeted by crooks.

Since the start of August, there have been more than 130 stolen batteries from farm equipment in Sumner County and at least $30,000 in damage.

It's happening when farmers can afford it least - planting time. Robert White is fighting the clock.

"We've got a lot of work. We've got to put on the fertilizer smooth everything down,” Sumner County Farmer Robert White said.

So you can imagine when both of his tractors broke down on the same day, he wasn't too happy. But what really has the farmer hot under the collar is why they stopped working.

"They don't want to see me if I catch them. Let's put it that way,” White said.

Wednesday night, White says he worked in the field until after dark. He left both tractors behind because he says it's not safe to drive them at night.

"Came back the next day after I got off of work and the tractor wouldn't start. So I went to see what the problem was and the problem was the batteries were gone,” White said.

"White says not only did he have to pay to replace all five batteries - which he just bought last year - he also had to pay to repair the damage the thieves did while stealing them.

"It's going to be somewhere around $1,000 to $1,200,” White said.

Sumner County Sheriff Darren Chambers says the battery thefts started at the beginning of August but just recently have gotten out of hand.

"The last week we've had I think 12 more incidents with a total in the last 30 days of 132 batteries taken,” Chambers said.

White's tractors are up and running again. He says he's not happy about the unexpected expense but had no other choice but to get the machines fixed quickly. He has a field of wheat to plant and only a month to get it done.

"I'm limited on time and we've got to get things up and going as fast as we can,” White said.

Chambers says they believe a couple of people are working together. They have a few witnesses and some evidence to help their investigation. Right now, they're focusing on trying to figure out where the stolen batteries are being sold or traded in for money.

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