The more things change
In February 2015, then Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier announced the appointment of DSP Francis as praedial larceny prevention coordinator, filling the post vacated since December 10, 2013.
Francis was much more fortunate that his immediate predecessor, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Reginald Grant, and retired Lieutenant Colonel Paul Dunn, the first person appointed to the post in May 2010. In addition to having Sergeants Maurice McLean and Damion Harry from the Community and Safety Branch of the JCF helping to police the portfolio, he also has administrative support staff in the persons of Trudy-Ann Edwards and Kehianne Campbell from the agriculture ministry.
Grant and Dunn were asked to carry the weight of their office with minimal administrative support, which made their task that much harder. In fact, it was only in 2015 that the unit became a line item in the ministry's budget. And even though still faced with resource constraints, the team has been having some success.
MORE LAWS FOR PROSECUTION
This, according to Francis, is due in large measure to the strategic decision to use a wider range of laws to prosecute offenders.
Between March 2015, when it became operational, until last month (March 2016), the Praedial Larceny Prevention Unit prosecuted 124 persons across 10 parishes for more than 162 offences, including larceny of cattle, receiving stolen property, unlawful possession of property, possession of agricultural produce without a receipt, and no public health certificate.
From these offences, 151 convictions have been secured, eight matters are still pending before the court, and three were dismissed, with the unit recording a 93 per cent conviction rate and netting about $856,000.00 in fines and convictions. Since the filing of that report on March 20, the team has made an additional 18 arrests, resulting in 48 more prosecutions.
While these figures are encouraging, they do not begin to even shed light on the true scope of the theft of farm produce, livestock, and marine catch in Jamaica. Losses for the Jamaican farmer continue to exceed J$6 billion a year, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey Report for 2013. To put that sum in perspective, it represents a whopping three per cent of the country's estimated gross domestic production of J$170 billion (US$14 billion).