Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cattle and horse rustling are on the rise in Texas, in spite of recently toughened penalties

In 2009, Texas toughed penalties against cattle rustlers, making it so those convicted could spent 10 years in prison. But despite the new law, and despite droughts that have decreased the number of cattle, more livestock have gone missing or been stolen since the law passed, notes Grits For Breakfast, a blog that examines the Texas criminal justice system.

"Ranchers saw a sharp jump in cattle rustling last year in Texas and Oklahoma," GFB reports. "Over 10,000 cows and horses were reported missing or stolen. That’s an almost 40 percent increase from the year before. It’s a trend that’s surprised some in law enforcement." Doug Hutchison a special ranger commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety, told GFB, “I was really starting to think that maybe we’d start to see a downturn, because these ranchers are watching so close to what they have with the downsizing of the herd, it’s a little easier to track.”

But some are not surprised at the increase in thefts. Richard Hartley, who chairs the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Texas-San Antonio, told GFB that it goes to show that tougher sentencing doesn’t generally serve as a deterrent. After all, cattle rustlers plied their trade even when the penalty was death. Hartley said, “If you read a lot of the research or even just the historical writings on that era. When there was hangings in the town square crime would actually go up. Because when you had a lot of people congregated in an area where pickpockets would know that we steal stuff from them.” (Read more)

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