Thugs would rather steal your bread and butter than work for their own.

According to Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant, a recent string of equipment thefts across Erath and Comanche counties have left at least eight workers without the tools they need to do their job.

"It is easier for thugs to steal what you have than it is for them to get a real job," Bryant said Wednesday.

In the latest rash of stolen equipment, welders are the prime target, according to Bryant who said other targets include tractors, trailers and backhoes.

"But they will steal any equipment if you make it easy on them," he said.

When it comes to protecting your equipment, Bryant offered up some "common sense" tips.

"The first step in protecting your property is simply not leaving equipment and other valuables out in the open," he said.

Other tips include recording serial numbers, photographing your possessions and branding or marking your equipment to make identification easier in the case your tools are taken.

When it comes to equipment, Bryant said the pilfered possessions rarely end up at local pawn and resale shops.

"These things usually end up out on a farm or out in the oil field," he said. "We can't really check those places in our attempts to locate your property unless we receive a tip."

The sheriff's office does, however, do its part to deter thefts. Bryant said as deputies make their way across the county and see equipment being loaded up at work sites, they will stop to make sure that a theft is not in progress.

Bryant said neighborhood watch programs that have been implemented across Erath have proven beneficial, and he advises all county residents to look out for their neighbors and their possessions.

"The county neighborhood watch program has been very beneficial for my office and citizens alike," Bryant said. "We are getting calls on suspicious activity when we used to get none."

Still, Bryant said many citizens won't call when they see something out of the ordinary because they think law enforcement officials are too busy.

"We will make time to check out every situation and follow up on calls," he said. "We would rather be proactive than reactive."

To report suspicious activity or stolen property, call the sheriff's office at 965-3338.

City residents should call the Stephenville Police Department at 918-1200.