The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded two weeks ago, killing 14 people and injuring about 200, was a repeat target of theft by intruders who tampered with tanks and caused the release of toxic chemicals, said Reuters.
Police responded to at least 11 reports of burglaries and five separate ammonia leaks at West Fertilizer Co. over the past 12 years, according to 911 dispatch logs and criminal offense reports Reuters obtained from the McLennan County sheriff's office in Waco, Texas.
Some of the leaks, including one reported in October 2012, were linked to theft or interference with tank valves.
According to one 2002 crime report, a plant manager told police that intruders were stealing four to five gallons of anhydrous ammonia every three days. The liquid gas can be used to cook methamphetamine, the addictive and illicit stimulant.
According to Reuters, the perimeter of the plant was not fenced, and the facility had no burglar alarms or security guards.
Owners of West Fertilizer, responding through a representative, declined to answer questions about specific instances of theft or the level of security at the plant. The company has encouraged its employees to share "all they know" with investigators, said Daniel Keeney, a spokesman for the company.
Reuters also said that West Fertilizer began complaining of repeated thefts from the facility in June 2001, when burglars stole 150 pounds of anhydrous ammonia from storage tanks three nights in a row. Nearly a year later, a plant manager told police that thieves were siphoning four to five gallons of the liquefied fertilizer every three days.