Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has agreed to meet with farmers from Barrackpore who are at the mercy of thieves. The thieves have been carting away the farmers’ produce and livestock nightly. Three of the farmers, including Hilary Thomas, have also been badly beaten.
An independent party has arranged for the meeting to take place at 11 am on Thursday at Police Headquarters. Griffith will meet with five of the over 40 affected farmers, among them Navin Persad and Shiva Mohammed, the latter a part-time pineapple farmer and barber.
The Penal/Debe chamber has also spoken with the farmers to help arrange a joint meeting with Griffith and Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat.
Persad, one of the victims, said this has been going on for years but within the past three months the thefts have intensified. He said the Barrackpore police station’s diary has hundreds of reports from farmers, many of whom have been robbed multiple times.
He said the farmers have given police the registration number, colour and make of the vehicle which has been transporting the stolen items. Video footage of the four men committing the acts (although the facial recognition is not very clear) has also been given to the cops, yet there have been no arrests to date.
Persad said the thieves have become so brazen that they are scouting the Cumuto South Trace and Kunjal South Trace areas during the day. He said he observed them passing through the village one evening and alerted the police who promised to respond immediately. When he called back later to find out whether the crooks had been caught, Persad said he was told by police they were unable to respond as they only had one vehicle.
“It is disturbing to hear this. I spoke to my dad who said since he was a boy that has been their story. Every year we hear from the commissioner and the National Security Minister about the release of vehicles to improve policing. Is it that none are coming to the southern region?”
He said he became a victim in the last two months, and only when he started speaking out did he realise how long this has been going on and how many people were affected. He said the bandits cut the fence to his property and stole ten sheep.
Livestock farmer Ramesh Harrinarine lost 100 ducks and 100 common fowls. Anita Surujbally said she was expecting to reap almost 100 pounds of melongene from some 500 trees she has planted, but was only able to get 15 pounds after the bandits passed through her field. He said the bandits have cleared fields of tomatoes, peppers and watermelon.
Persad said a community watch group established to ward off the bandits has not been a deterrent as people are now being physically harmed. Thomas said he was beaten with a stone and plannased (beaten with the flat side of a cutlass).
Both Mohammed and Persad said they were comforted by Griffith’s intervention to meet with them as they fear the attacks can only get more aggressive.
“It is happening right at the back of our homes, who knows when it may reach inside? We don’t want to get involved in vigilante justice,” Mohammed said.