The head of Alabama's new Agriculture Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU) says his officers will use a passion for “country folks” and sophisticated investigative skills to help solve rural crimes.

Gene Wiggins, chief of the unit, met agricultural leaders from across the state at the Alabama Farmers Federation headquarters in Montgomery May 28.

 “I believe there is a lost art of communication between small-town people and law enforcement officers,” Wiggins said.

“Our unit will be personable and approachable. We will be available to assist existing agencies and stand ready to help in any way we can.”

The ARCU consists of experienced law enforcement and investigative officers specifically devoted to solving rural crime. This unit will not take the place of sheriffs’ departments or local police departments, but will assist those agencies in curbing rural crime, Wiggins said.

Leaders from First South Farm Credit, Alabama Poultry & Egg Association, Alabama Forestry Association, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Farmers Cooperative Association, Alabama Rural Electric Association and the Alabama Agribusiness Council were among those who welcomed Wiggins’ message.

Lester Killebrew, chairman of SunSouth John Deere, said he is excited about the future of fighting large equipment theft and other rural crimes. The unit should give farmers and other rural residents a sense of relief and security, he said.

“This is great for the farm equipment industry, but most of all, it is great for farmers,” Killebrew said. “A focus of fighting rural crime is something we’ve needed for some time. Now, we will have a trained, central group to begin investigative work immediately.”

Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan said cracking down on rural crime saves Federation members and Alfa policyholders time and money.

 “We are committed to doing everything we can to educate our members about rural crime prevention and spread the word about this new unit,” Pinyan said.

The seven rural crime investigators will be located in different areas of the state. The ARCU home office is located at the State Farmers Market, 655 Federal Dr., Montgomery, Ala.

The unit is set to be operational June 1. Wiggins is currently setting up a toll-free number and website for reporting tips and suspicious activity.

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