SALEM, Ohio – Tom Callahan and his dog exercise together each morning and night, talking long walks around the perimeter of the man’s Brookfield, Ohio, farm.
The 69-year-old prides himself in noticing the changes in the crops growing there.
But what went unnoticed for so long, in one corner of a 24-acre corn stand off a state route, became easy to see in the past two weeks.
Callahan discovered downed rows of corn and “ears of corn blown everywhere,” damage caused by bandits on four-wheelers.
Losses. Callahan couldn’t put a figure on the losses, but said a significant amount of mature corn ready to be picked was trampled by drivers as they made paths through the field.
None of the downed corn was green, proving to the farmer all the damage has been made recently, toward the end of the growing season.
“And once it’s down, it’ll never come back up. It’s all lost,” he said.
Allowances. Callahan, who rents the field to another farmer, said they are disgusted with the damage.
“We talk and wonder how anyone’s supposed to make a living or money when this is happening,” he said.
But this isn’t the first time the farm has had trouble with recreational drivers.
Brookfield Police Chief Dan Faustino said Callahan last had trespassing trouble a little more than a year ago.
Riders were edging the fields and causing peripheral damage, so Callahan gave riders about 15 feet leeway to travel. But given an inch, riders took more and ruined 12-14 rows of crops, Callahan said.
Faustino said the trespassing happens sporadically in the township, so police can’t find a good pattern or do much to help stop riders.
All over again. Last week, riders were back to have more fun at the farm’s expense. Friday, Callahan was in the field watching for trouble when one four-wheeler came onto the property.
“There were two kids, screamin’ and hollerin’ and having a big time,” Callahan said. But he was on the wrong side of the field and couldn’t stop them.
He went back Saturday and invited Faustino to come along. No riders showed up.
Sunday, Callahan was armed with a camera and cell phone when he stopped five riders at the field’s edge. He snapped photos of all the riders and dialed 911 to call officers to the scene.
“The police are cooperating. They were here in 15 minutes, cruisers coming in from both roads,” Callahan said of his corner lot.
“I told the guys they could run, but I had pictures of them and we’d get them. They stayed,” Callahan said.
Those riders are facing charges of criminal trespass, Faustino said, and police will press them to reveal names of other riders on the property.
Respect. Callahan said he’s most frustrated with the lack of respect the riders have for him and his property.
“People buy these 100-foot lots and get their kids four-wheelers. Where do they think they’re having fun at? Why aren’t these parents asking the kids where they go?” Callahan said.
“Somewhere, somehow, we’ve got to put teeth in to stop this. Legislation, maybe,” Callahan said.
In January 2002, another Trumbull County farmer attempting to stop trespassers on his farm was hospitalized after being attacked by the riders.
“That ought to have been enough to open some eyes and get someone to step up to the plate. Enough is enough,” Callahan said.
“It will only get worse unless someone makes it better.”
What to do. Faustino said the best thing property owners with trespassing problems can do is arm themselves: not with weapons, but ways to document the damage, such as camcorders or cameras.
Faustino said they should also carry a cell phone to make immediate calls for help when they see trespassers on the property. The general public can help, too, he said.
“Be vigilant. Keep and eye out for your neighbors, and don’t be afraid to call the police.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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