Angelina, Cherokee authorities puzzled over oilfield thefts

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Where one gate is locked, another is likely open a few miles down the road. Thieves in Cherokee and Angelina County are taking advantage of the occasional open-door policy on rural oil fields.

"Kind of locations off in the middle of nowhere and they just go up to them and its an in and out kind of deal," said Sgt. Mike Jones of the criminal investigation division at the Angelina County Sheriff's Office.

Since late May, seven oil field thefts have been reported between the two counties.

Jones says anywhere from 10 to 20 pump batteries are being taken at a time.

Officials say the oil field sits on over 18,000 acres of land and with so many people in and out each day it's a struggle to monitor.

"They can be out there and the workers could be out there also but they'll be a mile from them so they won't even know that anyone is out there," said Capt. John Raffield of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.

Used to power the pump stations, the batteries are kept in a container similar to a tool box.

With the size of the work areas, it could be weeks before anyone noticed missing equipment.

"Its just when the field foremen go out and check these oil sites and well sites they discover they aren't running because the batteries have been taken," Raffield said.

Investigators believe thieves are hoping to turn a profit.

Each battery is valued between $180 to $200.

"It's highly possible that they are taking them to scrap yards, there are different possibilities of what they're doing with them and we're still in the process of trying to determine exactly what they're doing," Jones said.

While deputies track down 65 stolen batteries, they're encouraging oil companies to ramp up security before the losses really add up.

Cherokee County officials do have a possible suspect description.

A witness reported a man and two women in a black hatch-back leaving the first theft.

Angelina and Cherokee County scrap yards and recycling centers are being warned to watch out for the stolen batteries.

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