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In Texas and New Mexico, local authorities have asked the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agencies to help watch for suspicious behavior around ranches, including cattle rustling and grass theft.

“We are seeing a pattern. It’s hard to monitor since we are busy trying to catch DUIs and other crimes, so we need more eyes and ears,” said Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos, whose New Mexico county borders Mexico and sits just west of El Paso, Texas.

Mr. Cobos recently unveiled a plan involving a number of local and federal law enforcement agencies in the fight against ranch-related property crimes. His deputies also are taking classes on cattle branding to help identify stolen livestock.

“We see people with cowboy hats transporting cattle and hay all of the time, and we think nothing of it,” Cobos said. “But now if we see them at 3 a.m. in the morning … we have to stop and think: Is there something wrong?”