Theives are out in full force this holiday season, and they're targeting more than malls and department stores. While some crooks are hoping they'll blend in with the Christmas shopping crowd, others are avoiding them all together by heading out of the city and into the oil patch.
This is something that Midland Co. Sheriff Gary Painter knows all too well. "It's a major problem that is a constant problem for people that own equipment, that own leases, that own royalties, anywhere that you have some kind of oil activity."
Oilfield theft has been going on in West Texas for decades. The reason is simple. Producing oil requires certain equipment and that equipment isn't cheap.
"You must have copperwire in order to get the motor or rig to run. You have tools that are on the work over rig. You have tools that are on every vehicle in this county that has anything to do with the oilfield. Tools will sell. Equipment sells," says Sheriff Painter. He also says that pipe is highly sought after by crooks.
Another hot item is the oil itself. Not only easy to do, it's also easy to get without getting caught. Sheriff Painter says, "You pull a truck up to an oil tanker on a lease. You throw a hose over the theif hatch. They call it a theif hatch for a reason. That's what theives use to open up and throw the hose in and suck the oil out of it."
Not only is it popular among local theives, Painter says oilfield theft is attracting crooks come from all over the country. "They come down here, steal what they can and then drive it out of the state and use it or sell it." And some even take it across the border. "We have a major ring working right now that's taking stuff into Mexico. Mexico needs it. They need it bad."
Whether they're taking it to another country or just down the street, Sheriff Painter says eventually, they'll all get caught. Depending on the severity of the crime, they can face up to life in jail.
Tune in to next week's Big 2 Energy Report to find out what you can do to avoid being their next victim. The report will air on Big 2 News next Thursday night at 10pm.