Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
FOR TOO long farmers in particular and property owners in general have treated trespassing as a petty issue, failing to recognise its link to more serious crimes.
That's the view of Reginald Grant, praedial larceny prevention coordinator, who told AgroGleaner recently that the ongoing failure to treat seriously with trespassing is having a domino effect, especially in relation to farm theft.
He told AgroGleaner: "We have proven this time and time again, as we link non-trespassing crimes back to trespassing. Some nighttime trespassers come back in the daytime and carry out further criminal activity, or pass on information gained during trespassing to other criminals."
This, according to the retired assistant commissioner of police, is often the case in rural Jamaica where a person known to the farmer is caught on his property but offers the excuse of "taking a shortcut", which, on the face of it, seems quite reasonable. However, having completed a successful scouting mission, this person then passes on relevant information to his cronies and is not likely to be linked to any subsequent thefts.
Posing as Sympathisers
In fact, this person is oftentimes present on the farm in the wake of theft of farm produce posing as a sympathiser, when in fact they are there to find out how the investigation is going.
According to Grant, "They will ask pertinent questions which seem quite innocent and the poor farmer in his/her distress just pours out his heart. For instance they will ask; 'So Mass Joe, then a who coulda so wicked do this to you? The police have any idea?'"
Sadly, even policemen and women fail to see the link between trespassing which is at the core of farm crime, according to the praedial larceny prevention coordinator.
Addressing a recent launch of a Farm Watch group in Windsor, Clarendon, he urged owners to fence their land and post 'No Trespassing' signs in locations where they can clearly be seen by persons passing. In addition, ACP Grant urged them to prosecute trespassers, in order to deter them from returning, since "trespassing is just the tip of the iceberg".
A conviction for trespassing on enclosed or cultivated land carries a penalty of $20,000 or two years' imprisonment if the offence occurs at daytime. However, the fine is doubled if the act takes place at night.