MOSES LAKE -- Copper wire and metal thefts are on the rise in the Mid-Columbia, but a Moses Lake farmer took matters into his own hands Thursday.
The farmer held two men at gunpoint after allegedly catching them trying to steal equipment from his property in the Mae Valley area west of Moses Lake, said Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones.
The farmer said he found the men on his property around 2:30 p.m. in a pickup with an oxyacetylene torch. The suspects reportedly were using the torch to cut apart an asphalt paving roller, Jones said.
The farmer held the suspects at gunpoint and called an off-duty Grant County sheriff's deputy, who then called on-duty deputies.
Johnny Frank Mitchell, 46, and David Allen Thornton, 53, both of Moses Lake, were arrested on suspicion of second-degree burglary, second-degree trespassing, first-degree attempted theft and first-degree malicious mischief.
They were booked into the Grant County jail.
Jones said investigators suspect at least one of the suspects might have been involved in a previous property crime and additional charges could follow.
"I am really pleased with the solidarity which has grown between our citizens and the sheriff's office," Jones said. "That strengthened relationship is making a difference in our efforts to reduce all categories of crime."
Anyone with information about a crime or suspicious activity can call the sheriff's office at 509-754-2011 ext. 468, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tipsters can remain anonymous.
-- And in Oregon's Umatilla County, the sheriff said about $87,000 worth of equipment and materials have been swiped by copper wire thieves.
So far this year, Sheriff John Trumbo said, deputies have taken 15 reports about thieves stealing cable, copper wire, irrigation cable, axles, radiators and tools from farms and businesses.
The price of nonferrous metals dramatically has risen and "has not gone unnoticed by the criminal element in Umatilla County," he said.
Reports of theft of hay and fuel also have been on the rise, Trumbo said.
Officials encourage residents to practice good crime prevention to avoid becoming a victim and to report all suspicious activity to law enforcement.
* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com