Officials Come Together in an Effort to Stop Oilfield Theft in West Texas

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

ALPINE - It's a problem that keeps adding up for the oil industry.

Every year, thieves are getting away with millions of dollars in oil and gas equipment, but now law enforcement agencies across West Texas are working out a battle plan.

As storm clouds rolled out of Alpine, law enforcement prepared for a storm brewing on the border.

Everyone, from Sheriff's Deputies to Border Patrol officers, attended the first Big Bend Oilfield Equipment and Interdiction workshop.

"Most interdiction officers are concentrating on stuff coming north out of Mexico and they're not really focused on stuff going south into Mexico," Lt. Kenny Ray with the Texas Rangers in Midland, said. "We're just trying to give these officers awareness. So, they'll start having a mindset to look at that movement of oilfield equipment as possible criminal activity."

From 2005 to 2007, nearly 80 million dollars worth of oil and gas equipment was stolen from West Texas.

Many think the same groups responsible for drug and human trafficking are involved.

Here's what's happening, Mexican cartels are coming in and stealing wellheads and pipes so they have equipment when they go home and try to steal oil from Mexico. Then they turn around and sell that same oil below market price to American and other companies.

This is a big issue because everyone's affected.

"A great majority of the communities in West Texas, their life blood is the oil and gas industry," Chief Deputy Ed Krevit of the Midland County Sheriff's Office, said. "How that industry goes, how it fairs, that also determines how the economy of that community goes."

Ray says even your Average Joe can help.

"If they see something really strange - lights out at an oilfield sight at night, somebody coming off of an oilfield leasing a U-Haul - that sort of stuff," he said. "We'd like them to call and let us go out and see."

Working together may not squash the problem completely but it will definitely bring it under control.