Farmers are calling for firearm users licences and more resources for the Praedial Larceny Squad after a thief was shot an killed while stealing crops in Princes Town. The 68-year-old farmer who is recuperating from COVID-19 said he shot the thief in self-defence.
He said around 4:50 pm on Friday, he received information that people were stealing bags of plantain from his fields. He and his 35-year-old son went to the area and saw several crocus bags filled with plantain. Some of the bunches had been cut before it matured.
"We crossed the road where there are some tall bushes and we hide. Ten minutes later a brown Nissan Almera pulled up. Two men came out of the car. When I get up and peeped out and I see this fella going and uncover the plantain and picking up the plantain and the next one I see him walk with a gun (tucked to the) back. His back was turned and when I see that and I hail out, I I see the fella go for the gun and then I shoot," the farmer said.
One of the thieves was shot dead. The other thief who was armed ran off, leaving the stolen items and a third accomplice behind.
"The driver I stick up and I said if you move I going to shoot you. I had him under gunpoint until I called the police," the farmer revealed.
Police officers led by Asp Theodore Persad, Actg Insp Mohammed, Sgt Ramlogan, Cpl Bridgemohan and PC Moonilal visited the scene and seized the farmer's licenced Remington 12-gauge shotgun.
The suspect, aged 34, of Union Road, Marabella, was arrested. The dead man was viewed by the District Medical Officer who ordered his body be taken to the Forensic Science Centre.
The farmer said he was fed up of losing his crops. He said during his hospitalisation at the Caura Hospital, he lost 18 heads of animals which were left grazing on a 100-acre plot in Moruga. He said animal and crop larceny has escalated, noting that the Praedial Larceny Unit did not have adequate resources to patrol.
Contacted for comment, President of the Unified Farmers Association Shiraz Khan said the Praedial Larceny Unit only had one vehicle to patrol all of south Trinidad with only about eight officers.
"This is not sufficient and we are seeing a rise in larceny," he added.
Another farmer Gerald Kissoon said many farmers have stopped farming the lands near the M2-Ring Road because people stop and steal all the produce before the farmers could reap their harvest.
In September, over 50 farmers held a meeting in Barrackpore and called on Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to speed up the dissemination of firearm users licences to farmers.
Farmer Natalie Francois said over 30 farmers from St Mary’s to Barrackpore had lost over 1,000 heads of animals for this year alone.
She said the animals were stolen in broad daylight.
Another farmer Azahar Mohammed, of Kanhai Road, South Barrackpore, said since January he has lost over 35 animals.
President of the Cunjal Community Council and head of the Barrackpore Police Community Council Shaheed Allaham said people were coming from out of the area to steal crops and animals. He also called for better resources for the Praedial Larceny Squad.