Local farmers to benefit from new state agency
At a news conference on Thursday morning, Gov. Robert Bentley highlighted the success of the newly-formed Agriculture Rural Crime Unit (ARCU), which could be beneficial in rural areas such as Franklin County.
The ARCU, which was formed in June, is a new unit in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency that deals with investigating agriculture and rural crimes such as theft of farm animals and farm equipment.
Since its inception more than a month ago, agents have made 14 felony arrests and recovered stolen property estimated at more than half a million dollars in value.
“This is evidence of how streamlining our state-level law enforcement will benefit the people of Alabama,” Bentley said.
“These investigators will specialize in fighting and solving agriculture-related crimes. Agriculture is one of Alabama’s top industries. We owe it to our hard-working farmers to devote as many resources as possible to protecting their property and their livelihood.”
Franklin County resident Orland Britnell has served as the president of both the Franklin County and Alabama Cattleman’s Associations and is an active cattleman in the area.
Britnell said he recently learned about the ARCU and applauds the efforts of state leaders to protect cattleman and farmers in rural communities.
“Cattle thefts are getting to be pretty common, and even losing just one of your herd or one piece of farm equipment can be a very costly loss,” Britnell said.
“These things are happening in rural areas where there isn’t always a lot of traffic or people around, so sometimes these thieves think these farms are easy targets. Hopefully having a unit like this in place will start deterring some of this crime.”
The ARCU is commanded by Lieutenant Gene Wiggins and composed of 10 state investigators from four different state agencies: the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan praised the work of the newly-created agency.
“Shortly after the law enforcement consolidation legislation passed, Gov. Bentley and Spencer Collier took advantage of this change to contact other state agencies and combine resources to create the Agriculture Rural Crime Unit,” McMillan said.
“The unit is already a huge success, thanks to the wisdom of appointing Gene Wiggins to head the operation and the experience of dedicated officers from several state agencies.”
Officials said a rural crime tip line has been established for members of the public to report a farm crime and Britnell urged local residents to take advantage of this service.
“This unit is working really hard to prevent these types of crimes from happening and it’s something the people of a rural county like Franklin should take advantage of,” Britnell said.
“If you see something suspicious going on or something that doesn’t look quite right, call the ARCU tip line and report it so they can get this kind of thing stopped.”
If any type of farm crime is suspected, people can call 1-855-75-CRIME to speak with an analyst at the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.