Oil field theft in on the rise here in the basin. Now local authorities have teamed up to put the thieves behind bars. NewsWest 9 spoke with the Midland County Sheriff to find out what they are doing to tackle the increasing theft. He says with the help of a Oil Field Theft Task Force formed by the FBI, they've been able to make quite a few arrest and recover stolen oil field equipment.
"We had a lot problems when a lot of people were here when the oil field was booming. Now that it's slowed down we have a lot of them that are stealing," said Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter.
He says the downturn in the oil industry is to blame for a rise in oil field theft.
"Anything that has anything to do with the oil field is being stolen," said Painter.
But that's not the only thing he says has sparked an increase of oil field theft.
"So really everything is connected to drug use? It is. One way or another. It all comes back to it. 90-95 percent of the people that I have in custody right now, they're a direct result of alcohol or narcotics," said Painter.
He says often times it's former oil field employees that are doing the stealing.
"They have experience in the oil field and they know what to take because they know the value. The value of items can run from maybe $1,000 in one case to $100,000 in another case maybe up to a million dollars or more in other cases," said Painter.
Now with the help of a special task force they are putting the thieves behind bars.
"Well we're working on it a little at a time. We have a federal oil field theft task force that is under the direction of the FBI and it's the only FBI sponsored oil field theft task force in the nation. We've had a lot of success. Put a lot of people in jail. We've stopped a lot of theft. We've recovered a lot of equipment," said Painter.