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Tennessee, Mississippi team up to stop agricultural theft

Jackson, Miss.—The Mississippi Delta Agricultural Theft Task Force has a new partner to assist in reducing agricultural theft: the State of Tennessee.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office announced the partnership Friday morning.

Initiated by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office and Department of Agriculture and Commerce 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.

Tennessee’s addition raises the number of state partners to four.  Louisiana and Arkansas are already members of the Task Force.

Hosemann said this adds to the body of those protecting the agricultural industry in the South.

“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 theft of farm equipment by thieves who cross state lines to sell farm machinery for scrap value.”

Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy-Hyde Smith said this could lead to the return of items that are stolen–usually, they are sold off or lost.

“The expansion of the Task Force will enhance communication between the states and assist the Mississippi Agriculture and Livestock Theft Bureau, the law enforcement division of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce authorized to investigate agricultural-related crimes, in solving cases involving the theft of equipment and other items that are stolen to be sold for scrap metal,” said Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce.

Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and Commissioner Jai Templeton of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture agreed.

“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 multi-state effort.”

For Commissioner Templeton, this is a personal initiative.

“I understand the anger and frustration that comes with losing property to theft. 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,” Commissioner Templeton said. “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 than 30,000 businesses nationwide, including scrap metal dealers, report transactions electronically via LeadsOnline.

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