Copper thieves beware, metal in farm irrigation systems wired to local sheriff’s office
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 24, 2012 8:34PM
Farmer Hank Wunderink (left) talks with Lake County Sheriff's Chief Tim Downs (center) and Sheriff John Buncich (right) in a cornfield on Wunderink's 300 acre farm in Shelby, Ind. Friday August 24, 2012. A press conference was held in the field to announce anti-theft technology being used to combat copper theft from irrigation pivots (above). | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Note to copper thieves targeting farms.
Scrap your plans, that metal’s being watched closely.
Farmers are now using high-tech means to keep an eye on irrigation systems in their fields, including internal alarms that call the local sheriff’s office.
Although the copper in an irrigation section might fetch just $500 when sold for scrap, it can set a farmer back $10,000.
On, Friday local farmers, members of the Lake County (Ind.) Farm Bureau, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and the Lake County Sheriff’s office gathered in farmer Frank Wunderink’s Shelby cornfield underneath a massive irrigation system to talk about technology installed at local farms designed to catch copper thieves in the act.
Todd Wottring, district sales manager for Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, said the rising price of scrap metal has thieves trying to find copper anywhere they can, and one of those places if farm irrigation systems.
The system works by detecting the moment the copper wiring in a pivot irrigator is cut or tampered with and then sends alerts via text, email and telephone to the farmer and sheriff’s office.
Wunderink said one of his farms was targeted by thieves two times in spring 2011. They made off with the wiring and left thousands in damages in their wake. Wunderink said he had enough and installed the Netirrigate system on his farms.
“Then last fall in November in the middle of the night I got a call,” Wunderink said.
He gathered up his flashlight, drove the six miles to the farm and caught two people stripping the copper wiring from his irrigation system red-handed.
“I held one of them at gunpoint, the other one got away,” Wunderink said. The sheriff’s department was able to arrest the second thief a few weeks later. The men were prosecuted. Wunderink said he was able to make repairs to the damaged wiring instead of having to file yet another $10,000 insurance claim.
Mark Childress, account manager for Netirrigate, said the system costs about $1,000 per irrigation unit.