JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Praedial Larceny Unit (PLU), established in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in March 2015, and headed by a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), has been reaping success.
  • Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dermon Spence, tells JIS News that over the last 10 months there has been a 14 per cent reduction in praedial larceny.
  • Pointing out that the goal of the unit is to create an enabling environment which will result in the reduction of cases of praedial larceny and farm theft, Mr. Spence says the unit has been working hard to meet that mandate.

The Praedial Larceny Unit (PLU), established  in the  Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in March  2015, and headed by a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), has been reaping success.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry,  Dermon Spence, tells JIS News  that over  the last 10 months there has been  a 14 per cent  reduction in praedial larceny.

Pointing out that the goal of the unit is to create an enabling environment which will result in the reduction of cases of praedial larceny and farm theft, Mr. Spence says the unit has been working hard to  meet that mandate.

He points out that to support the PLU, a National Praedial Larceny Prevention Committee has been established to operate as an information exchange unit, providing guidance and support to strengthen the programme.

Mr. Spence says the PLU has been strident in its efforts to rid the nation of praedial thieves and provide a sense of comfort for farmers.

He notes that between  2014 and 2015,  the  parishes with the most cases of praedial larceny  are: St. Mary, 195;  Trelawny, 116;  St. Thomas, 196; St. Ann, 114; Manchester, 119; St. Elizabeth, 161; St. Catherine, 111; and Western Kingston, 167.

Mr. Spence adds that  from those reports, there have been 331 arrests, 74 convictions and  243 cases still  before the Courts.

The Chief Technical Director  says although  the  unit  is achieving  some success,  the  agricultural sector continues to suffer at the hands of praedial thieves who rob farmers and other stakeholders of an estimated $5 billion worth  of produce each year.

He notes that the reason why  the thieves  will  not  stop is the strong demand for fresh produce and the ease with which stolen produce can enter the market.

“Praedial larceny is the most impactful crime in Jamaica. It is the single greatest disincentive to investment in the agricultural sector. It is also intrinsically linked to organized crime, as stolen produce are traded for guns,” Mr. Spence says.

In an effort to thwart the praedial thieves, especially those who target livestock farmers, the Ministry  has introduced a number of traceability measures to include the National Animal Identification and Traceability System (NAITS), under which cattle are tagged and issued with a passport, which records critical genetic data, including the transfer of an animal from one owner to another.

In addition, a receipt book system has been set up to track the movement of agricultural produce from the field to the market.

Head  of the PLU, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Kevin Francis, says the unit has contributed meaningfully to the restoration of confidence in the agricultural sector.

He  notes that 168 farms have been visited;  71 community meetings have been  held and  83 meetings have taken place with  stakeholders, such as the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS).

“This crime is not to be viewed as a minor crime, but as one of the most pervasive and entrenched crimes. Praedial larceny has moved from the theft of small amounts of produce to involving, in some instances, truck loads of bananas or an entire field of pineapples,” DSP Francis tells JIS News.

He says  that  persons involved in praedial larceny are also involved in the meat for guns trade, with carcasses of animals being exchanged on the high seas. He adds that   members of the Unit have been placing serious focus on curbing that practice and apprehending the participants.

DSP Francis points out that there is on-going training for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF),  to sensitise them on the work of the unit and the impact that  praedial larceny is having on the country.

“I have taken it on myself to train, sensitize and educate  at least 250 police personnel, so they  can be aware of what it takes to present the cases before the Clerks of Court, so that the right charges can be preferred and  the right cases are presented,” he says.

“In order for praedial larceny to become less of a problem, we all have to work together. Praedial larceny should be everybody’s business,” DSP Francis  tells JIS News.

He says that  along with the monitoring of the coastal waters and the routine stop and search activities,  the unit is looking at regional training in terms of farm theft.

“What we have observed is that praedial larceny in Trinidad is different from what it is in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados. If we are going to come from a CARICOM level, to effectively fight praedial larceny as a region, we need to attack the issue as a region,” DSP Francis emphasizes.