Authorities investigating recent string of battery thefts

8/24/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Since Aug. 2, as many as 21 batteries used in irrigation motors have been stolen from both individuals and from a local company in an area north of U.S. Highway 50 and west of Holcomb.

According to Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue, on Aug. 16, three batteries belonging to The Garden City Company were reported stolen from irrigation motors located at 6200 W. Lowe Road.

After further checking, employees of The Garden City Company discovered that an additional 14 batteries were missing from other irrigation sites on Monday.

Bascue said that in addition to the batteries, a starter solenoid valued at $100 and a set of battery cables valued at $30 also were taken, a total estimated loss of $1,235 for the company.

Troy Dumler, operations manager at the Garden City Company, said the costs incurred from the thefts go beyond the replacement cost of the batteries — they also include labor costs associated with replacing them and costs to repair equipment damaged during the thefts.

"It's frustrating not only because of the cost but also because of the time involved to replace them," Dumler said.

He said the company has been a target of these types of thefts in the past and that it is currently looking at implementing increased surveillance and utilizing tracking methods designed to help locate equipment.

It is believed the batteries were taken some time between Aug. 2 and Aug. 19.

Also, on Tuesday it was reported to sheriff's deputies that sometime between Aug. 17 and Tuesday, a battery valued at $70 belonging to Jeff Wilson of Garden City was taken from an irrigation well in the 9600 block of North Sherlock Road.

Bascue said that perpetrators of these types of thefts will often sell the stolen items for scrap.

He said the sheriff's office is currently in contact with two local scrap iron and metal companies, alerting them to the possibility that the stolen merchandise could turn up there.

"We've got two businesses in Finney County that are in the scrap metal business so we've been there and they're aware we're looking for (these types of items) and they are cooperating with us," Bascue said. "It's possible they could be taking them elsewhere, so we're attempting to find other scrap metal companies outside of Finney County."

An employee of F & F Recycling of Garden City, formerly Garden City Iron and Metal, 3710 Jones Ave., said that the batteries themselves currently garner about 30 cents per pound but that the materials found in batteries can also be sold at scrap yards for varying prices.

The employee said that anyone who attempts to bring stolen items to the facility will have a difficult time evading detection, as Kansas law requires that all customers provide identification. He also said that anything coming into the yard identified as suspect is reported to law enforcement.

Finney County Undersheriff John Andrews said that three additional batteries were reported stolen on Thursday.

"One of them was missing from Chmelka and Rodkey roads. The second was taken from Lowe Road and Jones Avenue and had 'Knoll Brothers' engraved on it. And the third one was taken from the 4500 block of Railroad Avenue on the north side of the railroad tracks and it also had 'Knoll Brothers' engraved on it," Andrews said.

Bascue said there are currently no suspects in the thefts.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Finney County Sheriff's Office at (620) 272-3700.

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