Thieves target cows, goats, scallion in St Elizabeth
Deputy Superintendent Paul Bernard, the officer in charge of operations in the St Elizabeth Police Division, is adamant that more material and human resources are needed to bolster the fight against praedial larceny, which continues to be the most dominant crime in the Breadbasket Parish.
"Praedial larceny is one of our main issues, and as I have said before, we don't have the resources to sustain the effort," said Bernard at last week's Gleaner forum at the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation in Black River.
Bernard noted that because of resource constraints, only five officers operate on the St Elizabeth Agro Enforcement Team, which is tasked to police farmlands that supply a significant amount of the country's agricultural needs.
ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION
"When I said praedial larceny, it is not necessarily crops, but mostly cattle in the Black River, Lacovia, and Middle Quarters areas," said Bernard. "You have some large farmers losing hundreds of cows and we are having some serious problems with that."
He continued: "If we continue on this trend, our grandchildren won't know what a cow looks like. The rams are almost extinct because of the levels of the things that happen on the weekend here," continued Bernard. "On the weekend, you have up to 60 to 70 dance parties and the choice of meat is the goat. So there is a big market for the ram."
Based on information from the farming community, the cost of a cow on the market is currently between $100,000 to $400,000, while a goat can be sold for anywhere between $25,000 to $30,000.
Lenworth Blake, a former chairman of the St Elizabeth branch of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, said farmers have little power to protect their livelihoods, noting that the police are ill-equipped to carry out protection of crop and livestock.
The new situation of thieves targeting scallion, which has emerged over the past two months, is another issue that has become troublesome for farmers, alongside the recent outbreak of the beet army worm, which has decimated some crops.
"They (thieves) are now preying on the farmers who grow scallion because scallion is in short supply and the price is high. The poor farmers are suffering. I just spoke to one, who told me that they stole all his scallion two nights ago," said Blake. "These crooks are preying on the farmers who can't' do anything."