A high ranking officer believes that the police could be more vigilant when it comes to taking steps that will help to stem instances of praedial larceny in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“I think we need to do more. From time to time, we may see a truck passing and the truck is laden with — let’s say plantains…let’s take from Georgetown come down. It passes about five police stations that are on the main road between Georgetown to Kingstown and it was never stopped once,” Superintendent of Police Trevor Bailey said during this week’s episode of Interactive Media Limited’s(IML) The Press Room programme.
Wednesday’s programme discussed the theft of livestock and agricultural produce and measures that can be taken to eradicate the criminal act.
Bailey, who is the Divisional Commander of the South Central Division, said the laws give the police authority to stop and search vehicles when necessary. And there are many cases where trucks carrying agricultural produce are not stopped and subjected to the necessary checks to ensure that the produce being transported was obtained legally.
“The truth is, pretty often, they go unnoticed. So I say, we have our work cut out, we need to do it,” he said.
According to statistics provided by Bailey, reports to police about the theft of livestock and agricultural produce has been consistent within the past five years.
In 2020, the police received 186 reports of theft of livestock and 129 reports of theft of agricultural produce.
Of these figures, there were only 25 and 13 convictions respectively for each crime.
“Sometimes it is difficult to measure [convictions] because when an arrest is made, it takes a while for the matter to go through the legal system so you find that sometimes, you have a matter that is in the system, sometimes a whole year may pass and it is still in the system. And it’s rather frustrating for a farmer to be leaving his farm, which he does for a living, and come to the magistrate’s court only to hear he spent the entire day and the matter is adjourned to the next month,” the SOP explained.
He added that there are instances where matters are taken before the court, but a conviction is not secured, not because of a lack of evidence, but because the farmer becomes frustrated by the system.
Bailey also said “we may see the numbers of convictions as slim. That may be as a result of a small arrest rate so — and this is not me making an excuse — it is a rather challenging and difficult process, especially when it comes to theft of livestock because after the skin has been removed from an animal, you cannot identify the meat.
Several farmers across SVG have been hit by theft of their livestock in areas ranging from Riley, Carriere, Richland Park, Greiggs, Lauders, to Orange Hill, Langley Park, Park Hill and South Rivers.
More than one farmer has expressed that police officers don’t always visit the scene when theft of livestock is reported, until the next day.
Bailey, speaking on Wednesday’s programme said it was “rather disappointing” to hear about this.
He said police are mandated to visit the scene of the crime as this is also important to gather evidence that will help with securing convictions in the event that an arrest is made.
“…We would want to go there for different reasons…you’re verifying that animals were in fact being reared on his farm and that the area that the animals were stolen from, you see some sort of evidence, some sign, that animals were in fact tied in that area. You would see that the area appears to be grazed or trampled, you’d see evidence of animal faeces or you may see if the rope was cut from the tree or if it was cut from the stake,” the Divisional Commander explained.
Penalties for crimes of praedial larceny vary, and offenders may be ordered to pay a $1000 fine and/or serve a two year term of imprisonment.