August 31, 2007

Upsurge in livestock theft worries officials

There seems to be a sudden upsurge in the number of reports of stolen livestock here, and agriculture officials are again expressing their concern.{{more}}

“This is becoming an area of concern, and the Government, through the police, Minister of Agriculture and the office of the Attorney General are working together to see how they can combat this issue,” Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson told SEARCHLIGHT.

Last week Thursday, August 23, Terrance Mc Kee, a 27-year-old labourer of Kelbourney, was arrested and charged with the theft of one ram goat, a ewe goat, and a ewe sheep.

The animals belonged to Alpheus Williams of Eversham, one of many farmers who Robertson said that government officials will be visiting to “listen to the cry and complaint of farmers”.

Another farmer, Appracia Jones, had five ram goats stolen. On Tuesday, August 28, Keon Mayers, 29, of Campden Park, and a 15-year-old student were charged with this offence.

Wednesday this week, another man, Otis Poyer of Walvaroo, was charged with stealing two goats belonging to Kenneth Robinson of Sion Hill on Sunday, August 26, while also on Wednesday, Kenneth Davis was charged with the theft of two goats.

As he stressed his concern about the problem, Robertson said that earlier this year, the police had started to do a stop and search of vehicles coming from both the Windward and Leeward side of the country.

He said that this operation was stopped due to shortage of manpower, and the problem has since resumed.

Robertson said that in addition to the theft of the animals, some of the culprits were also stealing pregnant animals and killing them on the spot, leaving the dead fetuses on the farmers’ hands.

Meanwhile, Godfred Pompey, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, said that a committee which includes the Commissioner of Police, the Chief Agricultural officer, a representative from the Attorney General’s office, and himself, was formed to look into the legislation to protect the farmers.

The Praedial Larceny Agricultural Produce and Livestock bill will make provision for the appointment of rural constables in agricultural areas to enforce anti praedial larceny rules.

Under this legislation, farmers will be required to register so that they can trace animals and produce, and the police will have the right to stop and search any vehicle, and arrest occupants if they are found with any agricultural produce without a receipt.

Vendors will also have to produce receipt from the farmer indicating that they purchased their produce.

The new law will also impose a minimum and maximum penalty for persons found guilty of the offence. (KJ/SB)