Praedial larceny prosecutions up for discussion this month
Representatives of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit and the judiciary are to meet later this month to discuss issues surrounding the prosecution of thieves who continue to prey on farmers islandwide.
"On the 16th of this month (January) a select group of senior officers, including myself, will meet with the judiciary to discuss with them the impact of praedial larceny," revealed Lenworth Fulton, CEO of RADA, and a farmer, who said he was among the victims of agriculture theft last year.
"The judiciary, like anybody else, may feel like it is not a serious crime [but] they steal more farm produce than motor vehicles. Over $5 billion a year is going down to praedial larceny, and I doubt if you have $5 billion worth of motor cars being stolen each year," he argued.
"We are hoping that they will understand the pressure that farmers are facing each day when people set upon their crops. When someone steals a significant amount of a farmer's produce, he would have sent that farmer and his house, and his wife and his children into bankruptcy," he said, stopping short of calling for stiffer penalties to deal with farm thieves.
Fulton said RADA, in tandem with the Praedial Larceny Unit, has implemented a slew of strategies to educate farmers about praedial larceny and prevention.
He said the Government agency was also working on a farm database in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, which will make it easier for the police to identify stolen goods.
The meeting comes on the heels of reports by Trudi-Ann Edwards, coordinator at the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit, that agriculture theft was up during the months leading up to Christmas last year.
Edwards reported that some 798 instances of praedial larceny were reported to the unit between January and September last year, and that the unit has been using the media and face-to-face meetings to better assist victims.
Edwards has repeatedly lobbied for the widening of sanctions against praedial larcenists beyond the value of the stolen goods, to include the cost of damage to property, such as gates and fencing.