Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Special law enforcement unit combats cattle rustling in Texas

Dan Barry reports in yesterday's New York Times of the special rangers for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Barry calls this unit "part industry advocate, part law enforcement agency," and he tells how the white-hatted rangers caught a recent cattle rustler after a spate of major thefts (more than a dozen cattle each time) in east and south Texas. This is a group of law enforcement officers specializing in the cattle business, so the rangers know when rustlers know the business, too. Indeed, a knowledgeable rustler--a cattle whisperer, Barry calls him--was the culprit they arrested for the thefts this spring. The defendant in this case, from a cattle raising family himself, had been busted by the rangers less than a decade ago for another spate of cattle thefts.

The rangers appear to be a public-private hybrid, financed by the Cattle Raisers Association but "with the power of arrest, all wearing guns and white hats." Barry explains that the "the 15,000-member cattle raisers association, founded in 1877 by a band of rustler-weary ranchers, has 29 special rangers" who use "sophisticated databases (including a file of more than 100,000 registered brands) and plain common sense (checking cow pies for tire tracks)," to "investigate thefts of livestock and property and inspect millions of cattle a year." In the past ten years, they have "investigated more than 11,000 cases of livestock-related thefts, and recovered or accounted for more than 37,500 head of cattle."

The story's dateline is Groesbeck, Texas, population 4,304.

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