A multi-state task force created to combat the theft of farming equipment now has the State of Tennessee to help win the fight.

With the support of Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton, Tennessee becomes the fourth state to join the Mississippi Delta Agricultural Theft Task Force.  Louisiana and Arkansas are already members.

Initiated by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office in April 2016, the Task Force links law enforcement, scrap metal yards, farmers, and other interested parties in order to detect stolen items early, develop leads, and successfully prosecute theft.  Among the most vulnerable materials are valuable metal components, such as copper, and expensive farming equipment.

“The theft of property from the constituents of any of our partner states impacts the entire region,” Commissioner McPeak said. “By adding Tennessee to this Task Force, states can more effectively combat agricultural theft and help protect consumers. Tennessee is honored to participate in this multistate effort.”

Commissioner Templeton said he knows how it feels to be a victim.

“A few years ago, someone stole a tractor and bush hog from me. That equipment was mine and I wanted it back. Fortunately they were recovered, but I have yet to have the satisfaction that comes with seeing the thief caught and penalized. I appreciate the efforts of the Agricultural Theft Task Force to protect the agricultural and forestry communities’ assets. This partnership will allow for a swift response across state lines and create the best opportunity for recovery and justice.”

An early alert system administered by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office is one of the Task Force’s primary benefits.  The alert system is used in conjunction with LeadsOnline subscribers to connect law enforcement, farming interests, and scrap metal yards.

Law enforcement in Mississippi are provided access to the scrap metal component of LeadsOnline, an online investigation system, at no charge. More 30,000 businesses nationwide, including scrap metal dealers, report transactions electronically via LeadsOnline.

“Communication and shared resources across state lines is the key to reducing these kinds of crimes, which can have a lasting negative impact on the agricultural businesses we all rely on,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “Adding Tennessee increases our collective ability to act fast when a crime has been committed and deter, prevent, and prosecute future incidents.”

Though agricultural theft is relatively low profile, “At Close Range,” a 1986 film shot in Williamson County starring Christopher Walken and Sean Penn told the story of an organized crime ring involved in stealing farm equipment.

The movie, a true story depicting incidents in Chester County and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, was actually filmed on location in Franklin and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

For more information about the Task Force, contact the Regulation and Enforcement Division of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office at (601) 359-9055 or [email protected].

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