Lowndes County hit by string of equipment thefts

Published 2:10 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

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The Lowndes County Sheriff’s office is currently investigating a string of robberies targeting farmers in the area. The department has responded to at least five in the last three weeks, most involving the theft of diesel trucks, heavy-duty trailers and farm equipment. 

“In the past couple of months, we’ve seen an uptick in the theft of Ford and Chevrolet 2500 trucks, especially diesels,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West. “What we found is the organization that’s stealing these trucks is using them to steal heavy-duty trailers and farm equipment like expensive tractors and things of that nature. They are also stealing four wheelers and side-by-sides.”

According to West, at least three groups are involved in the Lowndes County thefts. The Sheriff said Butler, Montgomery and Crenshaw counties have also been hit.

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David Jordan & Company, located on US Highway 80 in Lowndesboro, had a Dodge Ram flatbed truck, a John Deere 6135 tractor, and a flatbed trailer stolen with other small equipment Nov. 22, the night before Thanksgiving Day.

“Craig Granthum (an employee) had been up there the afternoon before,” said Amanda Jordan. “We have some cows there. A young man that lives behind Hayneville Baptist Church saw our cows out and called Craig. He got the cattle in and saw that [thieves] had cut the chain on the gate and realized all that was taken.”

Granthum said the robbery took most of the equipment he uses at the farm every day. As a business owner, Jordan said the operation had been hit hard by the theft.

“It makes a big impact,” Jordan said. “Craig doesn’t have what he needs to use. We’ve had some really good friends let us use their equipment, which was a huge blessing.”

Frank Turner of Mobile operates a farm in Hayneville on Alabama Highway 17. On Nov. 19, thieves took a John Deer 6140 bucket tractor, which Turner said will cost roughly $180,000 to replace.

“It was taken between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning,” Turner said. “I bought it new from a dealership and gave $125,000 for it. I’m trying to buy another new one and it’s around $180,000.”

According to West, there are measures equipment owners can take to avoid the loss of property.

“I encourage our farming community to not leave equipment where it can be easily accessible,” West said. “Also, cameras around their barns and homes help us solidify a case or produce leads even more quickly.”

West also urges equipment owners to install GPS tracking devices on valuable vehicles and equipment. The use of such equipment helps law enforcement track down stolen property and identify recovered equipment.

“In one instance, we found some stolen equipment at a sale,” West said. “It was taken in Mississippi and brought here to sell. That equipment had a GPS tracker, and we were able to locate stolen equipment from Lowndes County with it. That’s why it is so important, because property stolen in Alabama can end up in Louisiana.”

According to West, tracking devices are vital to recovering property because community members are less likely to come forward with information than in the past.

“We’re not dealing with the same type of communities that we dealt with 20-25 years ago, where people would come forward to share information,” West said. “Today you can offer a reward and people still won’t talk.”

West said agencies are working together to catch the groups behind the robberies.

“We’re trying to pull our people together as one so we can mitigate this thing,” West said. “We’re ineffective without the community, totally dead in the water. So, we need them to do their part in helping us be successful in bringing these people before the law.”

Turner is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen tractor. He can be reached by calling (251) 422-9877.