Who feels it knows it

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If we were to use the police’s recently released crime stats for 2016 as a fair measure, instances of praedial larceny in Antigua & Barbuda are not so big a deal, as there were only 16 throughout the entire year.
But from the viewpoint of residents, the report in general was not worth the paper it was written on, and in talking to farmers in particular, the figures are woefully far less than their reality.
Such disbelief was communicated by one caller who stated that on the morning after the report was publicised by the media, he had knowledge that 16 acts of praedial larceny had been committed; therefore the police report, he said, meant “16 a day”.
And from all the reports that we as a news organisation have been receiving over the years, praedial larceny has become such a constant that these days, even young children know the connotation of those two words.
It’s just that due to the actions of some dishonest people amongst us, the meaning of praedial larceny – stealing the crops and livestock of our hard working farmers — has been brought home to the society in a very real, ‘in your face’ kind of way.
Our newsroom has been inundated with calls from farmers who have fallen victim to this type of criminal activity in which unscrupulous perpetrators use the cover of darkness to “clean out” all the offerings of a farm, including tools and equipment.
Already being severely challenged to grow their crops and keeping their animals watered and fed, especially in periods of prolonged drought, imagine the shock and frustration experienced by the operators when they are greeted by the devastation left in the wake of the crime spree. The dollar value of the crops, equipment, and or animals lost is often estimated to amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
Add to this mix the frustration when the thieves strike at one farm or paddock multiple times. This is tantamount to striking a mortal blow to the livelihood of the farmer and the viability of the agricultural sector.
Earlier this month, law enforcement “celebrated” the arrest of a young man who they said was responsible for the theft of livestock. But this news brought little solace to those farmers whose cows, sheep, pigs and goats have been stolen from, or slaughtered in their paddocks where their owners had secured them.
Tilling the soil and raising livestock requires commitment and long hours of sheer physical labour; a job for which not everyone is cut out to do. For as long as we can remember, farmers in Antigua & Barbuda have dedicated themselves to provide this service of supplying fresh local fruits, vegetables and meat to householders. They not only provide food in order to eke out a living, but also because they enjoy what they do, and happily donate produce to institutions, friends, and total strangers.
There was a time when praedial larceny was unheard of, when no one ever entertained the idea of robbing the farmers of their crops and livestock, never mind to actually do it.
The common suspicion among victims of this new-fangled crime is that other farmers, who happen find themselves short of goods to sell, are behind the acts.
As most victims have considered it an exercise in futility to report their losses to the police, since a pumpkin, mango or bell pepper has no distinguishing marks, that could, perhaps, account for the low crime stats in this area.
So, as the wanton pillaging continues unabated, we take this opportunity to remind unsuspecting consumers who purchase the proceeds of praedial larceny of the dangers to which they could be exposed. Many farmers often lament that at the time their vegetables or animals are stolen they had undergone chemical treatment for which the period of incubation had not yet run its course.
Through no fault of their own, the health of anyone who partakes of the spoils is therefore placed in jeopardy.
Praedial larceny is just a wicked, despicable act which not only cripples the farmers who have invested their money, time and other valuable resources to provide a much-needed service, but the fallout could also have far reaching negative effects on the economy and the health of our residents and visitors.
Using police jargon, we therefore appeal to the perpetrators to cease and desist.

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