Trailers, especially the enclosed variety, which are used to haul everything from horses and livestock to classic cars and carpentry gear, are easy targets for theft.
"It's all about supply and demand," said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris, whose department routinely investigates dozens of such thefts each year. "There's an obvious market for them, and they bring relatively good prices."
On Saturday morning, police said, Augusta businessman Jay Weinberger was pulling a stolen trailer when a Putnam County sheriff's deputy tried to pull him over. Police said Mr. Weinberger took his own life at the end of a police chase.
Just last week, Columbia County authorities recovered a trailer reported stolen in June from a business in North Augusta. The recovery spurred a broader inquiry in Aiken County, where suspects were being sought Tuesday. In all, 18 thefts involving equipment or utility trailers have been reported in Columbia County in the past 90 days.
What are they worth?
A scan of locally advertised used trailers shows dozens of such vehicles, with asking prices ranging from $600 to more than $6,000.
Capt. Morris said recovery rates for stolen trailers are low.
"When we do find trailers, often the identification plates have been removed. Or if the trailer has a stamped serial number, oftentimes they have been ground off, which makes it difficult to make a positive identification."
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.