Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
With under two weeks remaining in the year, larceny is the only category of serious crime that is on pace to record an increase over last year's figure.
Data prepared by the police shows that up to last weekend, 665 cases of larceny were reported islandwide, a 78 per cent jump when compared with the 374 cases that were reported for the corresponding period last year.
According to the statistics, a copy of which was obtained by The Gleaner, the St Andrew Central Police led all divisions with 252 reported cases, a 563 per cent jump when compared with the 38 reported cases for the corresponding period last year.
The Manchester Police was next with 77 reported cases, a 353 per cent increase over the 17 reported for the corresponding period last year.
The statistics also show that nationwide, the number of reported murders have fallen by four per cent; shootings have declined nine per cent; robberies have declined 13 per cent and break-ins have fallen 11 per cent.
Senior Superintendent Derrick Knight, who heads the St Andrew Central Police Division, said the figure reported for his division does not paint an accurate picture and, like other police commanders, he pointed out that larceny is difficult to police.
According to Knight, the 252 reported cases across his division include similar crimes that were committed last year but were never classified as larceny.
Crimes of opportunity
The St Andrew Central Police Division covers commercial and residential areas in New Kingston and Half-Way Tree, as well as the commercial districts in Cross Roads and Knight believes this encourages more people, including drug addicts, to commit what he calls "a crime of opportunity".
He said: "A man pass and see a man rake outside, him lawnmower or some bags a cement and him gone with it."
He added: "Some of these people (committing the crime) are coke heads who use the opportunity to feed their habits."
Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle, who heads the St Catherine North Police Division, agreed with his colleague on the difficulties policing offences such as larceny, asserting that it was an issue of citizens being honest with each other.
"It's all about honesty and integrity. It's not so much about the police policing larceny," he asserted.
Larceny, as defined under the Larceny Act, is taking anything that can be stolen without the consent of the owner or where a person fraudulently and without a claim made in good faith takes or removes anything with the intent to permanently deprive the owner.
The act also allows for a person to be charged with larceny if, as the bailee or part owner of an item, he or she fraudulently converted it to their own use or to the use of any person other than the lawful owner.
It includes obtaining possession of an item by trick, intimidation, a mistake on the part of the owner or by finding, where "the finder" does not take "reasonable steps" to find the owner.
"Like you walking along the road and you see a man wallet drop outta him pocket with how much thousand US dollars and you take it for yourself, that is larceny by finding and you can be convicted for that," one police commander explained.
In addition to increased police presence, both Knight and Castelle suggested that more public education is required to sensitise the public about the provisions of the Larceny Act.
Top-10 police divisions with reported cases of larceny 2012
|1. St Andrew Central||252|
|3. St Ann||65|
|4. Kingston Eastern||44|
|6. St James||24|
|7. Kingston Central||21|
|8. St Andrew South||18|
|10 (tie). St Catherine South||16|