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Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas has said that while he empathized with livestock and other farmers who lose their animals and crops to praedial thieves, the Police High Command does not support or condone vigilante justice.
Addressing the 60th Annual Conference of the Jamaica Association of Public Health Inspectors at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay on October 24, the Commissioner urged the Inspectors to assist in ensuring that more creative ways be found to reduce these vigilante style killings, to ease the woes of the farmers and to safeguard against the consumption of unwholesome products.
“Increasingly, over the past three years, there have been acts of violence with deadly results associated with praedial larceny in the rural parishes. Between November 2003 and June of this year, 10 such suspects have met their deaths at the hands of angry citizens. The Police High Command does not condone this type of action by citizens, although we empathize with farmers in their plight,” the Commissioner reiterated.
He said that to alleviate the emerging challenge, the Police High Command has assigned a batch of 31 Special Constables across the country, specially trained and equipped with trail bikes, to tackle the problem which has cost the livestock farmers millions of dollars in losses.
The Commissioner proposed an expansion of the neighbourhood watch programme, especially in areas plagued by praedial thieves. He noted that there were some 613 such groups across the island and that these were invaluable to the violence reduction strategy.
“This partnership between the police and citizens could negate much of the vigilante killings, as residents would be more confident of obtaining justice through the legal system. For these reasons, I am happy to announce that the programme will receive a boost by way of support from cellular provider Digicel.
This company has offered to repair and replace damaged neighbourhood watch signs, allow approved credit facility to groups who want to give information to the police, establish an office for the National Secretariat of the neighbourhood watch at the community relations headquarters and to enhance the human resource capacity through training and development of members of the movement in such areas as leadership skills, entrepreneurship, conflict resolution and other life skills,” the Police Commissioner noted.
The conference is being held from October 24 to 26 under the theme: ‘Violence – an emerging public health problem’.