Construction theft goes along with the construction boom in the Houston area. But in Brazoria County, thieves are expanding their targets.
Last week, Tiffany Christopher returned home to her family's small ranch in Rosharon. The driveway gate was open, and the lock broken. When she saw her horse trailer behind the barn, she was relieved, but only for a moment.
Missing was the John Deere she and her husband purchased a few months ago. They used it to mow their large pasture, and were using it to drill fence post holes for new fencing.
"They took the tractor and they also stole our trailer to carry it away," she said.
Christopher went to local social media for Brazoria County and soon discovered there were other people missing farm equipment.
"It seems to be happening every week," she said.
Brazoria County Sheriff's Lieutenant Varon Snelgrove doesn't call it an 'epidemic,' but said that it does seems to be on the rise.
"Items like tractors and other heavy equipment don't have VIN numbers like vehicles, so they're harder to track. Some of them come with tracking devices, but not all," he said, adding that the stolen equipment is sold to willing buyers on the black market. "Some of it goes across the border."
In Angleton, Bobby Ford Kubota was hit by a crew of thieves in October. Security video given to Eyewitness News shows four to six suspects, including lookouts, who warned their cohorts to hide when a car passed by on the country road at night. They broke a gate, pushed a truck out of the way, and used the dealerships own flatbed trailers to load high-end riding lawnmowers. The starting price for each is around $5,000.
"They had already picked out what they wanted. They knew what their were looking for," said manager Marty Emfinger.
He likened it to someone having a shopping list.
Angleton Police are investigating the theft. This week, the agency arrested two people in Houston, a man and woman, in a separate case involving theft of an excavator. Their bonds were set at $100,000 each, and they may have already posted bail.
It's a big illegal business, which extends beyond Brazoria County. Montgomery County recently arrested 3 people who had everything from stolen trailers, and trucks on their property, along with methamphetamine.
Tiffany Christopher is just one victim among many, but she feels it especially hard. "We're hard-working people down here. We need our tractors. We don't bother anybody," she said. "You should be ashamed of yourselves." And she also wants her tractor back.