Farmers’ Irrigation Equipment Target for Copper Wire Thieves

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ACAMPO-

San Joaquin farmers are facing an ongoing dilemma -- thieves are stealing copper from their wells and water pumps.

The well water that irrigates Mohr-Fry ranches dried up in April.

"I just had to replace from the wires that were connected to the pump motor down to the pump panel,” Bruce Fry, the vice president for Mohr-Fry Ranches, said.

But it wasn’t the ongoing drought that cut off Fry’s water supply, he said, it was a copper thief.

“And they strip all the wire out, then you can’t run your pumps or irrigate your crops,” he said.

The fifth generation wine grape farmer told FOX40 two of his pumps were stripped for their copper.

"They go in and they take the wire from the actual, from the pump motor that goes to the panel on the power pole,” he explained.

Ever since the theft, Fry said he’s been more vigilant of those passing through his ranch, especially those on bicycles.

"Farmers in this Acampo area have been seeing a guy on a bicycle,” he said.

Fry believes it’s the power lines that often lead thieves to what they see are potential money makers.

While farmers are keeping their eyes open, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office claims they’ve seen about 30 cases of copper theft this year.

"Extreme dangers ... some of them range from extreme electrical burns to death,” Sgt. Randy Johnson, with the sheriff's office, said.

Criminals risking life and limb, causing thousands of dollars of damage, just for a quick buck, “That’s only worth $5, $10,” Fry said of the wires that were taken.

Fry said a damaged well can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

The sheriff’s office has a program to brand and ID irrigation equipment in case it turns up at a recycling plant.