By Bob Weaver

The theft of heavy equipment is a billion dollar business nationally, according to Bruce Adkins of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Calhoun has had its share of problems in the past few years, including thefts of equipment from Key Energy and Prime Energy in Arnoldsburg and Creston Oil, previously located in Grantsville.

A $70,000 piece of oil and gas field equipment was stolen in June, 2006 from Key Energy, a 2.5 Bowden Swivel used for running pipe on drilling operations.

Thieves used bolt cutters to gain access and loaded the heavy apparatus on a 2000 Chevy truck they took from the company yard.

The truck was discovered the following week on Cabin Ridge near Arnoldsburg, where the apparatus was likely shifted to another truck.

"We haven't had a lead at all," said company spokesperson Mike Wine, despite offering a $1,500 reward.

Thieves took an expensive late model Ford 350 truck with a tank and hydraulic equipment in February, 2006 from the Prime Energy operation along US 33-119 west of Arnoldsburg.

That equipment was recovered from Clay County's "Murder Mountain," but a stolen dozer has never been located.

A group operating from a residence in Morgan County, participated in stealing equipment in the greater Calhoun region in 2002, including tractors, ATV's, jet skis, lawn mowers, motorcycles, weed eaters, TV's, chain saws, VCR's, tools and many other items.

Theft victims were reported in Calhoun, Gilmer, Braxton and Lewis counties. A case against the thieves was filed in Ohio, but the names of the regional victims were never released.

Thieves broke into Creston Oil Company at Grantsville in 2004 and took a 2004 dump truck, the truck was used as a vehicle to steal compressors, generators and possibly other equipment. The truck was later recovered in Gilmer County, but no arrest was made.

A seminar regarding the problem in West Virginia is being conducted today in Charleston. Mike Zirkle, director of services for the WV Contractors Association said "About every contractor has a war story about stolen equipment."

Often the thefts are related to obtaining drug money.

Zirkle said "Few people would question a person in a hardhat loading a piece of equipment onto a trailer on an interstate median, but because the state is rural, much of the equipment is left unattended."

Thieves favorite targets in WV are riding mowers, garden tractors or a skid steer, a small tractor with a scoop on the front. "You can steal one with a pickup truck and a trailer," Adkins said. "They cost about $40,000 brand new."

The WV State Police does not release public information regarding stolen equipment, ATVs and vehicles in Calhoun County.