BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A man was arrested Monday after police said he cut down and stole a tree from a Battle Creek church.
Battle Creek Police Lt. Jim Martens said a church member noticed a 53-year-old man and his son cut down a black walnut tree on property owned by the Fort Custer Christian Assembly .
“He asks them if they had permission and they said yes, they did. So, he leaves, checking on it, making some phone calls. Comes back sees that they’re gone but now was able to follow some scrape marks from back in the woods down to the road and finds the tree a couple miles down the road,” said Martens.
Police say they were called to an intersection a couple miles from the church property where they found the man and his son trying to load 30 feet of the black walnut tree to their truck.
“[We] make contact with the two gentlemen that were there with two-by-four’s and a car jack trying to load the tree up,” said Martens.
The Lieutenant said the man confessed to officers he chopped down the tree before being arrested.
Martens mentioned it is protocol for officers to check their patrol cars before and after arrests are made.
“[The officer] takes this person to jail, comes back out to his vehicle and then he finds a little crumpled up piece of paper with what ends up being tested as meth. It appears as though it had been dropped down to the bottom of the car,” said Martens.
He said the man faces charges for larceny and possession of meth.
“Sometimes people don’t put a lot of thought into what they’re doing. They’re just trying to get by. Trying to do what it takes to get what they need,” said Martens.
Thieves chopping down black walnut trees is not uncommon to Battle Creek police. They said good money can be made from black walnut wood.
“We don’t think about people trying to steal our trees, but it’s a very real crime and it happens. Black walnut trees are very expensive and we have some people that will go to different places and cut them down,” said Martens. “It’s an expensive wood for furniture, for nice furniture. Black walnut is at the top of the scale.”
Martens said BCPD has handled black walnut, cherry and other tree theft cases before.
“They’re finding a place that processes them, turns them into boards, a sawmill-style business that will purchase from them,” said Martens. “They’re just trying to do a quick flip.”
Martens advised property owners to keep an eye on their trees.
“If you own a wooded area, you might want to walk through it every once in a while and take stock of what you have because, as I said, it’s not unheard of. There will be people that go out and do these things,” he said.