To catch a criminal fence cutter: How people, police can keep cattle contained

Kevin Keen

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

To catch a criminal fence cutter: How people, police can keep cattle contained

CREATED May. 22, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The home video is hilarious, but the crime behind it is serious and, KGUN9 finds, also widespread. After our story on a Tucson neighborhood invaded by cows, viewers let us know they’re also being overrun by cattle. The cause? Criminals cutting fences.
 
The cows keep coming back to Sycamore Park, south of I-10, through holes in fences. There’s controversy over who’s responsible for that fencing. The homeowner’s association and rancher involved point to each other.
 
To get a picture of the people crossing over from the neighborhood into the State Trust Land next door, the Sycamore Park Community Association set up a trail camera. It captured images of bikers, walkers, ATVs, trucks, cars and other off-road vehicles passing over the downed fencing.
 
Tucson Police Sergeant Paul Hawks said the snapshots help, but “the pictures we have received are actually just people crossing into the State Trust Land.”
 
None of the images clearly show the vandals at work, snipping barbed wire or yanking out fence posts.
 
Hawks said they're hard to catch because they come and go so quickly during all times of day.
 
What's the crime here? Destroying the fence is "criminal damage." That's a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.
 
If the people crossing into the State Trust Land don’t have a permit to be there, there’s a possible charge of “criminal trespassing,” Hawks added. If the people are also driving an ATV or similar vehicle, there’s also a violation of Tucson’s off-road vehicle ordinance.
 
There are other criminals out there. KGUN9’s heard from viewers on the northwest side, east side, south side and as far as Sierra Vista that all know of fence cutters and loose cattle.
 
“There are few bad actors in any community,” said Evan Pilling of Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists. “I think that the overwhelming majority of mountain bikers and all outdoor recreation enthusiasts are responsible.”
 
Pilling said the criminals at work here give the outdoors-type a bad name.
 
“When users go out and they break the rules, it makes it harder for us to show that we are responsible and legitimate group of trail users,” he said.
 
“It jeopardizes our relationship with land managers,” Pilling added. “One of the things the mountain bikers are really pushing to do right now is form stronger relationships with land managers so we're working with in a partnership with them as opposed to in opposition to them.”
 
In Sycamore Park’s case, TPD has set up a system so neighbors can call with tips, which could include the license plate numbers of people caught driving over the fencing.
 
“The eyes of the public are really what's going to help us,” Hawks said.
 
Call the eastside police station at 520-791-5700 or call 88-CRIME with any information. Call 911 during a crime in progress.

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