Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A.G. Takes New Angle on Cattle Rustlers ; High Beef Prices Tempt Thieves with Quick Profit Potential

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A.G. Takes New Angle on Cattle Rustlers ; High Beef Prices Tempt Thieves with Quick Profit Potential

Article excerpt

Attorney General Derek Schmidt found affirmation of Kansas' decision to intensify investigation of cattle theft in words of an out-of-state regulator.

Colorado Brands Commissioner Chris Whitney disclosed in a North Forty News article thoughts about criminal temptation given traction by elevated beef prices. The story included his comments about the risk of attempting to unload their hot bovine commodity at markets in that mountain state.

"It talks about Colorado livestock authorities really clamping down," Schmidt said in an interview. "And, if you're a thief stealing cattle in Colorado, the phrase was something to the effect of, 'You better try to sell them someplace else, like Kansas.'"

Sting of that interpretation of Kansas' opposition to rustlers burns worse than a red-hot brand on a steer's hip.

"That's the problem we're trying to deal with," the Kansas attorney general said. "We want to make sure Kansas is at least as focused and tough on the problem as our neighbors in the region."

In December, the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the state attorney general's office completed an agreement on formation of a new livestock and brand investigation unit. Schmidt hired former Kiowa County Sheriff Kendal Lothman to serve as a boots-on-the- ground special agent.

Lothman's focus will be felony thefts of livestock and livestock pharmaceuticals as well as brand violations.

The agriculture department has inspection authority over livestock facilities, but has lacked staff with credentials to perform criminal inquiries. The department approached Schmidt's staff about collaborating.

Bill Brown, the agriculture department's commissioner of animal health, said the commitment was to "assist in any way possible" to protect livestock assets in Kansas.

The agriculture department provided a five-year statistical summary indicating the number of theft reports increased from 2012 to 2014 while the number of cattle stolen or missing fluctuated. Over the five-year period, the department annually received an average of 45 theft reports involving 300 animals. …

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