For the past six months, farmers who raise crops on the Delta's Tyler Island have been on high alert, patrolling their property at night with shotguns, questioning strangers they find parked on levee roads and shrouding their equipment inside steel safes.
Despite the efforts, their livelihoods have been disrupted as thieves have made off with tractor batteries, engines, air compressors and, most importantly, anything with copper wire inside.
More than 100 drainage or irrigation pumps have been wrecked in recent months, officials say, devices that are critical to keeping the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from seeping up through the ground and choking newly planted fields. Repairing the damage has cost more than $150,000.
"We've had a lot of problems down here," farmer Steve Mello said recently as he recounted the losses he and others have suffered. "I can't trust anyone anymore. That's the way I feel."
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