Jamaica To Crack Down On Farm Thieves

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(AP) Jamaica's government announced a campaign Tuesday to crack down on the longtime problem of thieves stealing livestock and crops from ranches and farms across the Caribbean island.

Organized rustlers working on Jamaica's rural back roads often strike in the dead of night and sometimes even butcher cattle right in the field. Other thieves prey on farms, grabbing goats and chickens or hauling off vegetables and fruit. Glen Harris, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, said agriculture losses from thievery approached $70 million last year in Jamaica, where roughly 200,000 people make their living off farming.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said Jamaica's severely backlogged justice system needs to get tougher on such crimes. He said farm bandits rarely are sent to prison. The maximum fine for someone convicted of traveling with agricultural produce without an official receipt is nearly $3,000, but the penalty is rarely enforced.