Copper Thieves Steal Thousands From West Michigan Farmers

Posted at 9:24 PM, Nov 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-10 22:52:03-05

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Copper thieves strike again. This time West Michigan farming communities are the target.

Thieves are climbing water irrigation systems and stealing the copper wiring. Mike Baczewski’s rig has been hit multiple times.

The crops on his Sand Lake farm are ready to harvest. The stalks full of corn are grown for livestock feed. However, the corn sitting underneath the system can’t be picked.

The irrigation system is blocking the way and can no longer move since someone stole its copper, motor cable. A combine (used in the process of picking corn) cannot maneuver the idle rig.

Mike Baczewski owns the farm and the $55,000 irrigation system. He said thieves stole the copper some time on Friday night.

“They peel it, strip it, get the copper out of it, and they cut it up into little bitty chunks and go sell it,” he explained.

Baczewski also owns a second irrigation system that’s untouched. The wiring is still in tact.

“[It takes] $23,000 to replace it,” he said that doesn’t include labor.

It’s a familiar feeling for Baczewski. He said thieves did the same thing in August. The most recent theft makes it “six times in the last four years” that he’s been targeted.

He said he no longer relies on insurance.

“We’ve had so many claims that we got canceled one time, and now here you sit. You don’t have any insurance,” he explained.

Baczewski has had to cover the replacement cost himself, and he isn’t sure of a solution to the theft. A lieutenant with the Michigan State Police said this form of copper theft has become a common problem for farmers. The agency is investigating this and several other incidents in neighboring counties.

“They’ve done this so many times they don’t even need a flashlight. They’re working in the dark [because] they know exactly what they’re doing,” he said.

“This problem has gotten so out of control, the Michigan State Police said that a task force has been formed to combat the problem. Any with information is encouraged to give the Lakeview Post a call at 989-352-8444.

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