Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Police units rolling out to target farm theft

Published:Thursday | July 29, 2021 | 12:09 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Agriculture Minister Floyd Green has pledged to expand the number of crack teams within the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to tackle the wave of farm theft plaguing the island.

Praedial larceny continues to be a millstone around the necks of Jamaican farmers and has been estimated to cost the industry $6 billion annually.

But bureaucracy and personnel shortage across swathes of remote farmlands make surveillance, reporting, and response difficult.

“As one farmer said, you make one step forward, and two steps backwards, and it’s preventing new entrants into the marketplace,” said Green.

The old paradigm saw praedial larceny cases fall into the pool of general reports, causing investigations to lag. The new units will have designated teams of four to five personnel.

Bolstering farm crime investigation

Seven such units have been formed.

The agriculture minister said each unit will have a praedial larceny patrol vehicle and a detective that deals specifically with praedial larceny cases. The mobility and focus are expected to bolster the investigation of farm crimes.

Despite still being a work in progress, Green said the new units have already been reaping rewards and have so far arrested 80 per cent more persons.

“In 2019, we arrested 69 offenders for praedial larceny, and last year we arrested 114 for similar offences, so we are moving in the right direction,” said Green.

Those numbers, however, are just the tip of the plague.

The agriculture minister also stated that the Government is now reviewing some of the laws governing praedial larceny, as the penalties have not kept pace with the scale of the problem.

“The fines being given to praedial larceny offenders are far too low and, on most occasions, cannot replace the animal that is stolen, so the Government needs to send a clear signal that this is not acceptable,” said Green.

The Government will also be placing agricultural wardens on the ground. These persons will have the power of a district constable and will be assigned to specific areas, Green said.