Praedial larcenists in St Mary cops' crosshairs for New Year
In an effort to protect farmers from praedial larcenists, police in St Mary have developed a strategy to help target criminals involved in the burgeoning international meat-for-guns trade, the parish's commanding officer says.
Speaking from her office at the Port Maria Police Station, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay revealed that while her officers would continue to target crime hot spots such as Annotto Bay with hard-hitting operational strategies, in 2016, greater emphasis would be placed on catching thieves who preyed on independent farmers.
"Next year, we'll be increasing our road-policing activities and stepping up how we deal with praedial larceny because in many instances, praedial larceny is part of the meat-for-guns trade," Lindsay told The Gleaner.
"It's moved from a little thing to being part of an organised network where criminals are organising syndicates of thieves to steal cattle, which they export to countries that need meat in exchange for guns."
She added: "This week, we got three prosecutions for praedial larceny, which tells farmers that if they report cases, the police will take action. However, we have some habitual offenders and are currently tracking a very sophisticated group operating in St Mary with members from different parts of the parish.
"Usually, they get one person to scout a farm, make contact, and buy from the farmer, but really, they're just looking for an opportunity to access the facility and see what animals are inside.
"When the opportunity presents itself, they come back to steal with a butcher and vehicles. When they leave, they even have a driver piloting the way to ensure no police are on the road."
Lindsay also noted that while St Mary's murder toll increased in 2015, there had been significant improvement in the division's clear-up rate and more operations, patrols, and raids compared to the previous year.
She said: "St Mary was my first divisional command experience, and I arrived on January 15 in a baptism of fire because by the first two weeks of the year, we had the same number of murders as we did during the first six months of 2014, so we really had a lot of work to do.
"As of today, there have been 28 murders in the parish, two more than last year, which we're not happy about, but overall, I believe we're going to end up with less major crimes in 2015."