Cops look to roadblocks to catch livestock thieves

MAY PEN, Clarendon — With criminals who steal farm animals becoming more organised, the Clarendon police will be ramping up efforts to catch them in the act as they move stolen cargo along the roads.

“We hope to improve the coordination of our efforts to include roadblocks in certain areas whenever we suspect there are high levels of theft in certain hot spots,” said National Praedial Larceny Prevention Officer Superintendent Oral Pascoe.

“Clarendon is known for a high level of theft of animals and one strategy is that when the animals are stolen, they must reach a buyer and a market or consumer, hence the increase in road policing going forward,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

He also appealed to farmers to be more vigilant in securing their livestock.

“They have to be tagged and monitored and ensure that not a lot of persons have access to their animals. In Clarendon we realise farmers are accustomed to herding the animals in large numbers and they are not tied and then they are stolen by highly organised gangs who are involved in the stealing and transportation of stolen animals,” said Pascoe.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture, in an effort to strengthen the knowledge of police officers, had ramped up training across all geographic divisions. This included looking at the applicable laws that relate to agriculture-related crimes, the Agriculture Produce Act, the receipt book system and transportation of agricultural produce.

“You must take photos and keep a record of your animals. We are… telling the farmers to register with RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) so that when we are doing our road policing and we intercept vehicles and they cannot give account, we know what to do,” he said. “If one farmer has three cows and is caught transporting 10 to a location, he has to prove that three belong to him and he bought the rest from someone and has to prove the source is legitimate. We realise there’s a lot of collusion going on but we are putting strategies in place to ensure that these animals don’t enter the food system and be easily sold to us as consumers.”

According to Pascoe, the Clarendon police have stepped up surveillance of hotspots which has resulted in a lot of recoveries and interception of stolen animals. In addition, efforts are constantly being improved to tackle praedial larceny.

“It is not easy and the farmers have to work with us and ensure that they monitor their farms and join Farmers’ Watch Programmes and work with us to protect them. We have to try as much as possible to control the space. The police also have a responsibility, under the Public Health Act in terms of butchers’ regulations as well as certain specifics that the police should adhere to. So we are ensuring that we use the laws to control the movement and slaughtering of these animals,” he said.

The lawman also had a warning for consumers.

“Under the Agricultural Produce Act, if you purchase an animal from a farmer, you’re supposed to get a JAS receipt. If you are transporting it to a location, if the police stop you, you should have that receipt that is tied to the farmer’s registration. When an animal is purchased, it must be slaughtered at a registered slaughter house otherwise you may find yourselves in serious trouble with the law. If you see meat selling too cheap, get suspicious, if you’re not sure of the source then check it out, and always try to be vigilant to ensure you are supporting farmers that actually grow their produce,” he cautioned.

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