JCF to establish agriculture produce protection division
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) will be establishing an Agricultural Produce Protection Division as part of efforts to intensify the campaign against praedial larceny.
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries J.C. Hutchinson said says the Division will boost law-enforcement focus on the myriad issues affecting the agricultural sector.
“Through this division, I am hoping that units will be established islandwide with the mandate to focus specifically on agricultural produce theft and related offences,” he stated.
He was addressing senior and rank and file members of the JCF and farmers at a praedial larceny prevention workshop at the Medallion Hall Hotel in St Andrew on Wednesday.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Bishop Dr Gary Welsh told JIS News that the division will be housed at the JCF’s Operations Branch.
“It’s a renaming [exercise as] we already have a headquarters unit with five persons in it. What we’re doing with that headquarters unit is to build it out into a division at operations. When we have praedial larceny challenges in the 19 police geographic divisions, it would be relayed to us at headquarters and it would be expected of us to investigate it,” he said.
ACP Welsh added that “what we are doing now is pushing this activity all the way down to the station level, with the requisite reporting at the area and divisional levels, so that they can prosecute.”
Meanwhile, Hutchinson reiterated that the Ministry is proposing amendments to the Agricultural Produce Act and Praedial Larceny Prevention Act.
These amendments will include a redefinition of the term praedial larceny to incorporate livestock, fisheries, lumber and other classes of agricultural produce as well as increasing the attendant fines to a maximum $3 million or up to five years’ imprisonment.
“We are also proposing that a person convicted make restitution to the victim of the offence and pay an amount equal to the value of the agricultural commodity. They must also pay interest on the commodity,” he further stated.
Hutchinson pointed to plans, beginning in January 2019, to train approximately 400 agricultural aides to assist extension officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
The aides will be recruited from persons living within farming communities, who will work alongside RADA extension officers to register farmers and assist in combatting praedial larceny.
In his remarks, Head of the JCF’s Strategic Operations Branch Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake urged the police to make every effort to protect the agricultural industry.