The Christian Science Monitor profiles the “special rangers” of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. The 29-member task force roams 96 million miles across Oklahoma and Texas, investigating agriculture thefts. The paper says cattle rustling has been increasing there in recent years, after a three-year drought increased the price of beef and thus thefts. Last year, rangers working the region recovered nearly $5 million in stolen property, including 3,716 head of cattle, 144 horses, 10 trailers and 18 saddles.
It’s a job some say is too big, too specialized for mainstream law enforcement to handle. So for the past 130 years, the “good guys in the white hats” – and these guys do wear white hats – have filled the breach, trying to learn new ways to cope with an old crime. It’s tougher than it used to be. Cattle rustlers were once limited to what they could round up and herd off on horseback. Now, fast cars and faster highways allow for rapid transport of stolen goods. A thief can steal a trailer of cattle in Houston and sell them in Baton Rouge by daylight for a cool $20,000. Absentee ranchers, lax branding practices and auction yards where a man’s handshake is a contract compound the problem.