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Release Date: 
Sunday, June 9, 2013

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

An anti-praedial larceny initiative with $1 million in reward money, conceptualised by Crime Stop and the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010, has failed to get off the ground, even as farmers continue to lose millions to praedial thieves.

According to Prudence Gentles, manager of Crime Stop, she is frustrated that all the efforts put into the programme have gone to waste, as the Ministry of Agriculture has not done its part.

"There was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) when Minister (Christopher) Tufton was there. We have a million dollar from the ministry and it was to use the Crime Stop hotline to report praedial crimes, because it is still the agency that persons call and report incidents.

"However, the programme is not being advertised by the ministry, nor is it being utilised by the farmers," said Gentles in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

But permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, Donovan Stanbury, is challenging those claims.

He said there was a public-education campaign for the programme.

"Yes, there was a campaign. It ran in the media for a while, just like the regular Crime Stop advertisements but with a focus on praedial larceny," Stanbury told The Sunday Gleaner.

According to Stanbury, although little has been heard of the programme, it remains on track.

"We have not abandoned the programme, but funding for these things are finite, so you have to identify other sources of funding to continue the public-education programme," he stated.

Insufficient exposure

The MOU for the 'Praedial Larceny Prevention Programme' was signed on May 20, 2010, but Gentles is "unsure if farmers even know about the programme".

Billboards, posters and bumper stickers, as well as radio and television advertisements should have been part of the public-education programme, but Gentles believes the exposure was insufficient.

"There is one billboard, just outside Ewarton - near the Linstead bypass - which was to show what it should look like. But in my view the ministry has not done what it was supposed to do.

"The posters and stickers were supposed to go out to every Rural Agricultural Development Authority office throughout Jamaica and distributed from there to farmers," she explained.

Sunday Gleaner sources say some billboards seen across the country with a chef advertising the 'eat what you grow campaign' were the ones that were initially identified for the Crime Stop programme.

"I am very upset about it. I went to meeting after meeting and spent hours after hours, and nothing has happened. In fact, it was launched and then relaunched.

"Sometimes I really get despondent. I have written letters, but to be quite honest I have not done anything since the new minister came along," said Gentles.

She charged that the programme fell apart when Tufton left the agriculture ministry.

Robert Montague, who replaced Tufton as minister, told The Sunday Gleaner he recalled little of the programme.

However, Montague said he is aware that motorcycles were part of the programme and personnel from the Island Special Constabulary Force were to be used.

Crime Stop is an initiative started after public alarm at the mounting levels of crime in Jamaica in the 1980s.

It encourages anonymous telephone calls to a special hotline number.



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