Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj, has announced the establishment of five stations to help combat praedial larceny that will be manned initially by a Praedial Larceny Squad (PLS).
The squad, comprising 76 members of the Special Reserve Police (SRP), was launched yesterday at a three-month induction training programme at the Prisons Training College, La Horquetta, Arima.
The Squad consists of four sergeants, 12 corporals, and 60 constables.
Maharaj, who delivered the address, said the stations will be located at Carlsen Field, Centeno, Felicity, Usine and Ste Madeleine.
Plans are in motion, he said, to establish similar stations across the country. All stations will be opened on a 24-hour basis.
The officers on the induction programme will be trained in report writing, arrests, care and custody of prisoners, trespass, and in the Praedial Larceny Act, 2000. They will also be trained in the use of firearms.
The training programme and establishment of the squad was a collaborative effort between the Food Production Ministry, which will be responsible for the administration of the squad, and the National Security Ministry which will be responsible for training, recruiting and dealing with matters of performance and discipline.
The launch of the squad was based on a pilot done in Carlsen Field, where, Maharaj said, “a small band of rangers” were able to significantly impact, and reduce criminal activity in the area.
Stressing the importance of the need for such a squad, Maharaj said, “over the years the nature of praedial larceny has changed with incidents becoming more frequent, larger volumes of crops and livestock are stolen, and behaviour has become highly organised, and often violent.
This results in unsafe, unsure and unsustainable environment for our nation’s farmers.”
Noting that crime takes many forms, he said, “We are determined to take a zero tolerance approach to all forms of crime, including larceny.”
To help alleviate praedial larnency, he noted that the Agricultural Development Bank is offering loans for CCTV cameras for farm security at reduced interest rates.
Noting that praedial larceny has far reaching consequences on agricultural production, food security and sustainability, he said many farmers who are victims become disillusioned and abandon their farms.
Recalling an incident in which a farmer injected insecticide into avocados after suffering from years of theft, Maharaj said some may resort to harmful activities to the detriment of consumers.
Appealing to consumers not to buy stolen crops, he said, “You must safeguard your health by buying from reputable vendors and suppliers.”