Meat thieves on the loose! - Pigs, goats, fowls, cows at risk as Christmas draws nigh
The police are on high alert to protect the nation's farmers this Christmas in light of the seasonal increase in praedial larceny at this time.
The Praedial Larceny Unit has reported an increase in the number of theft from the agricultural community in recent weeks and is urging Jamaicans to get involved in the fight to protect the farmers.
"It is something that we seriously want to highlight. It is not something to put on the back page. We really want the public to be aware and to help us fight against it," Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake said at a media briefing last week.
"Beware of agricultural products and stolen produce. Several persons will be offering you animal meat. Ensure that the livestock and vegetables that you are buying are from reputable places," added Superintendent Clifton Laing of the Criminal Investigation Branch, as he noted the increased demand for meat during Christmas.
Less than 24 hours before the police media briefing, farmers Tyrone Williams and Omar Smith were robbed of 12 pigs, which they valued at more than $200,000.
The men operate a pig farm on the outskirts of Seaview Gardens in Kingston, and when they turned up at about 5 a.m. last Wednesday, they found a bloody piece of iron, a chopped-off pig leg being mauled by dogs, and footprints in one of two pens from which the animals were stolen.
"My three pigs them look like them did too heavy for them to handle, plus one of them was pregnant, and you know them going to run around and squeal when them (thieves) come near them.
"So what they do is knock them out with the iron pipe and then drag them over the fence," said the 31-year-old Smith, as he bemoaned his losses.
"The only thing I came back come see is one of the pig them leg. Is like it get stuck when they were lifting it over and they couldn't bother wait so them just chop it off and drive leave it," added Smith.
He said hours before the theft, he spent more $4,000 to purchase feed for the animals.
The theft has dealt both farmers a heavy blow this Christmas.
"The man them take $160,000 from me just so. Nine a me hog dem gone! Nine a dem, me tell you," lamented Williams.
"Them really mash me up in the Christmas here," added Williams
Trudy-Ann Edwards, praedial larceny prevention coordinator, told The Sunday Gleaner that up to September this year, some 798 instances of praedial larceny were reported to the unit.
She said figures for the latter months are still being compiled by the police, but calls to the Praedial Larceny Unit from distressed farmers have increased significantly in recent weeks.
"Our public-education campaign is ongoing. We have been doing radio and television interviews monthly. We have newspaper articles and we have been having weekly farmers' visits," said Edwards.