“Somebody,” the Sherburne County Star News in November 1919 reported, “has discovered a new way of reducing the high cost of living.” Thieves victimized farmers in Sherburne County for several years by stealing anything they might be able to eat or sell.
A thieving crime wave first appeared in 1919, Jim Brown a Livonia Township farmer reported a two-year-old steer butchered in his field. The thieves took “everything along except the head the entrails,” the paper reported. According to the reporter, Brown’s steer was the second Sherburne County theft by butcher that year. The paper also recalled several sheep had been similarly stolen. “It may be that an organized band of thieves are operating in this section,” the Star News suggested.
Later in the 1920s, organized gangs of thieves again operated in the county. For more than three years, 1921 to 1924, butter thieves targeted creameries owned by the Twin Cities Milk Producers Association. In October 1921, the Star News reported the thieves hit the Elk River Creamery and made off with 445 pounds of butter. Police speculated the thieves might have gotten away with more except some unknown disturbance frightened them away. Earlier in the year the gang of thieves hit the Forest Lake Creamery. There “they took away everything they could find including the butter in tubs as well as prints.”
After diligent investigation, police closed down the ring. Charles Blad, from St Paul was identified as the leader of the gang. Police convinced him to plead guilty for a sentence in Stillwater prison of “an indeterminate term.”
Police paused to catch their breath before they began investigating yet another crime ring in Sherburne County. In December 1925 thieves victimized county chicken farmers. “A series of raids, bearing all of the earmarks of the deeds of experienced professionals culminated with the theft of between 60 and 75 blooded Rhode Island Red Chickens,” the Star News reported. The thieves, the paper speculated “are of the type who travel in automobiles, steal, and market their products in the Twin Cities.” Police speculated the capture of the thieves would be difficult. In response, the paper reported, “the farmers of western Sherburne County are setting their man traps and oiling up their shotguns.”
For whatever reason the thefts stopped in Sherburne County. Although never violent crime, the value of the property stolen from the farmers and citizens of Sherburne County was significant.