Mon | May 20, 2019

Farmers want an end to praedial larceny - Judges sensitised to 'slap-on-the-wrist fines' for agricultural thieves

Published:Wednesday | February 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Corporal Michael Walker and Sgt Princess Bayliss rap with farmers.

OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:

St Catherine farmers on Monday expressed their frustration at the heavy losses they have to endure at the hands of praedial larcenists and the poor response from the police at their plight.

The issues were highlighted at a workshop hosted by the United States Agency for International Development Community Empowerment and Transformation II in collaboration with the Praedial Larceny Unit, as well as other stakeholders, at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church Hall.

One farmer from the Colbeck area said that he started out with seven goats, reaching a high of 163 before thieves left him with only 37.

"I sold only one and ate one last year," the farmer said. He also expressed ire at what he deemed the lack of care by the police, noting that he went to the Old Harbour Police Station to report theft on his farm minutes after midnight and was there for more than two hours being treated like a criminal.

"They never came to the farm to check. I am never going back there," he shared.

Husband-and-wife farmers Errol and Eda Martin expressed uncertainty where there future is now concerned.

Errol said he has had to employ more staff to secure his chickens, and even then the coop is still broken into.

"They cut the fence trying to lure the cows off the property. I have to cut back on production, I can't pay my taxes, I can't earn and I am 74 years old," he said.

Sergeant Princess Bayliss of the Community Safety and Security Branch, as well as her colleague, Corporal Michael Walker of the Old Harbour Police Station, told St Catherine farmers suffering at the hands of praedial thieves that all stakeholders should start on a clean slate for 2018, promising to visit the various groups with a view to addressing their concerns.

Sergeant Damian Harry, who is assigned to the Praedial Larceny Prevention Coordination Unit said sensitisation sessions were held with parish court judges on the'"slap-on-the-wrist' sentences that were being given to praedial larcenists.

"It tells us that praedial larceny is everybody's business," he said. He also encouraged farmers to invest in the receipt books that are sold by the Jamaica Agricultural Society.