The head of Saint Lucia’s Praedial Larceny Unit says the current COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a spike in praedial larceny.
“Because of COVID-19,” a lot of people are unemployed,” Pancras Albert told St Lucia Times.
Albert said as a result, the unemployed people steal produce from gardens.
“They want food, they don’t have the money – they’re not at work,” he explained.
Albert disclosed that in 2019, people reported 524 cases of praedial larceny to the unit.
But that number increased to 729 in 2020.
According to Albert, because a new office opened in Choiseul in November 2019, it gave people in that area an opportunity to report predial larceny.
He felt this also contributed to the spike in the reporting of cases as people felt more confident in coming forward.
However Albert lamented that the unit’s vehicle broke down.
As a result, he explained that officers could not attend to most of the reports.
“It has been in the garage for quite a long time,” Albert disclosed.
He told St Lucia Times that when the unit got back the vehicle, it broke down again.
“For last year we had five convictions and we have 20 matters pending,” the Head of the Praedial Larceny Unit said.
But he said in most cases farmers prefer to settle out of court.
However, Albert said when the agreement falls through, the victims want to press charges.
Nevertheless, he said because the six month period has elapsed in some instances, officers cannot pursue the matter.
Albert said officers arrested 18 people last year – 7 in Micoud, 9 in Richfond and 2 in Choiseul.
One hundred and seventy-seven cattle were stolen last year 25 in Choiseul, 86 in Micoud and 66 in Richfond.
But Albert explained that thieves prefer to target goats.
Last year they stole 41 goats in Richfond, 4 of which officers recovered while in Micoud thieves stole 35 goats and officers recovered 8.
In Choiseul thieves stole nine goats, none of which officers were able to recover.
Albert said thieves find that they can easily transport and dispose of goats.
He told St Lucia Times that thieves made off with 15 cows in Richfond with officers recovering 11 of the animals.
People also reported that thieves stole a cow in Micoud and two of the animals in Choiseul.
However, officers did not recover any of the animals.
In addition, the Praedial Unit offices at Micoud and Richfond received reports last year that thieves stole a total of 13 horses.
Officers recovered 10.