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Is your farm vulnerable to theft?

In his more than 20 years as a farmer, Jim Sanderson has worn many hats. But in August 2008, the hat he donned was that of a detective -- he had a thief to catch. His story reads as if it were pulled from the pages of a Sherlock Holmes novel. A crime had been committed, and clues were gathered to solve the case of the missing haybine.

Like many farmers, Sanderson's capital is spread over many acres. Whether it's equipment, livestock, or tools, much of it is portable and an easy target for thieves, including his MacDon haybine.

Leaving his haybine in a field along a major highway one August afternoon, he returned the following day to find it had vanished.

While Sanderson may have thought his piece of equipment would be safer by a busy road, leaving it there was, in fact, one of the things crime prevention programs tell you not to do because it makes it that much more tempting to thieves.

Compounding the situation was the fact that Sanderson lives in Columbia county, and the theft took place in Dodge county and had to be reported there. "There can be problems in neighboring counties, but the county sheriff's departments don't communicate with each other about it because there are boundary issues," says Sanderson.

It's a problem Deputy Travis Clinesmith, Sedgwick county sheriff's office in Kansas, is tackling head on with the introduction of the Agriculture Livestock Information Network (A.L.I.N.). "Coffee shop conversations talk about the stuff that goes on with farms and are a great way to get the word out, but it's local," says Clinesmith.

A.L.I.N.'s overall mission is to raise awareness of farm thefts by spreading the news to as many people as possible as quickly as possible about a stolen piece of equipment through e-mail (alin@sedgwick.gov). This program is a way to connect the coffee shops.

In place for a year now with nearly 150 registered members spanning 21 counties, A.L.I.N. is off to a good start. And Clinesmith looks at helping farmers become more vigilant as one of the rewards.

"Hopefully, the program is making farmers think twice about leaving that piece of equipment by the road or is making them more alert to a suspicious person in their area," he says.

But connecting the counties was only part of the dilemma for Sanderson. Another strike against him was that the piece of equipment wasn't insured. "One of the first questions the officer asked me was if I had insurance," he says. "That's one of the problems, because if people have insurance they figure that's the end of it. "I didn't and it would have cost me about $15,000 to replace my haybine."

In his more than 20 years as a farmer, Jim Sanderson has worn many hats. But in August 2008, the hat he donned was that of a detective -- he had a thief to catch. His story reads as if it were pulled from the pages of a Sherlock Holmes novel. A crime had been committed, and clues were gathered to solve the case of the missing haybine.

Knowing he wouldn't be able to recoup his loss from an insurance claim and that the odds of law enforcement officials recovering it were slim to none, Sanderson took matters into his own hands.

NER's president, David Shillingford, says the underlying problem is that equipment is not built to be secure; it's built to be productive. He explains there are three main reasons why stealing equipment, which is estimated to cost about $1 billion annually, is so popular among thieves.

Here are a number of areas that you need to secure.

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