Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
CUSTOS OF Clarendon, William 'Bill' Shagoury, has called for strengthening of the laws to more effectively punish thieves who continue to deny hard-working farmers the benefits of their labour.
Addressing Monday's launch of the Windsor Farmer's Watch in upper Clarendon, he declared: "The judges need to understand that when a person toils and sweats in the sun that their produce, when taken away from them, is a very precious commodity and those (guilty of stealing) need to feel the full extent of the law.
"The Government needs to make sure that when someone steals farm produce or animals, they need to go and do hard labour and plant back some of those things that they have taken."
The custos noted that despite his success as a businessman, he was also a frustrated farmer, having suffered hard at the hands of thieves over the years. "I was once the biggest, or probably one of the biggest sheep and goat farmers in Jamaica, and one weekend I lost about 300 of them ... by the person who was looking after them."
Series of robberies
Having learnt from that experience, Shagoury then changed: "I decided to go into wild pigs, so I fenced up a big area and put the pigs in there. They can't see them, you know, because is all bush, and still, they go in there and kill out the wild pigs," he lamented.
Having scaled down operations, the custos thought he was free from the thieves when he received a stunning reminder to the contrary over the Christmas, after buying six goats.
He told the audience: "The six of them were stolen one Sunday, one time. They didn't even leave me one. They stole the whole six of them."
Still, the farm thieves were not done with him as last Friday an ackee thief was caught on the farm, his brazenness in operating in daylight catching the custos off guard.
"There is this gentleman who just rides around picking the ackees like he planted the trees ... . Well, you know, we caught him red-handed this time. His job was just to move from tree to tree and steal the ackees and he didn't think twice that he saw a house right beside the tree and there was evidence that it was somebody's ackee tree."
As one who had suffered hard at the hands of thieves, Shagoury said he could understand farmers' plight, and urged those in Windsor, Mocho and Thompson Town to become part of the solution. "You must look out for each other because if you don't, you are going to end up poor and pauperised. It cannot continue. We need to stop it. You need to work with the police and look out for each other," he charged.