By Brian Porter
It was the original, unpardonable crime of the Old West.
What used to get a person's neck stretched on the Chisholm Trail will still today result in a felony and some serious jail time. Yet, cattle theft is on the rise across Texas and Oklahoma – by some accounts up by as much as 40 percent from 10,000 stolen head in 2012.
"That's because of beef prices," said Wayne Goodman, a special Ranger commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate theft for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "You can steal a TV from someone's home and get five cents on the dollar at a pawn shop. If you steal someone's cow, you can run it through a sale and get dollar for dollar."
One rustler was recently apprehended in Johnson County who was stealing stock in a neighboring county. He was caught with four head of cattle that sold for $345 each, a total return of $1,380 for what Goodman describes as a fairly quick turnaround. Larger cattle sold for breeding can bring $1,000 a head.
"They can steal your cattle on Friday night and have it at a sale barn Saturday morning," Goodman said.
The penalty is fairly stiff. Upon conviction of livestock theft, a rustler would be given a third-degree felony punishable by two-10 years imprisonment. If the offense was theft of 10 or more head or value in excess of $100,000, the penalty would be a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years imprisonment.
Chances are stolen cattle might be sold before the owner realizes they have gone missing. More....