Goats stolen to fund gangs

Clarendon police move to curtail growing practice of new 'meat for guns' trade

BY H G HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 02, 2018

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FEW could have predicted that one day the stealing of goats would become the leading criminal activity in a Jamaican parish, similarly, it would not have been easy to fathom that the act is fostering the growth of gang activities.

But that is the case with the central Jamaica parish of Clarendon, as not only is larceny of goats the leading criminal act, but the proceeds from the illegal trade are being used to fuel the daily running of established gangs and their members, a document obtained by the Jamaica Observer has indicated.

The document, which was an assessment by the Clarendon Police, shows that use of the proceeds from the stealing of goats to finance the parish's gangs, and even some of those on the outside, is one of the latest attempts by lawbreakers to maintain their viability.

“Most notable are the Hayes Gang, the Palmers Cross-based Webb Lane Gang, and the Race Track-based One Blood Gang,” the Clarendon police said in the document.

The clandestine drugs for guns trade, in which Jamaican criminals swap drugs for weapons from the north Caribbean island of Haiti, was also found be have grown in meaty significance — goat flesh is now one of the popular trading elements, the police said.

Some of the probable causes were listed by the police as: “The proceeds obtained from the stolen animals/goats have been used to finance criminal gangs in the parish and elsewhere.

“Information is indicating that stolen animal meats are now being used to substitute drugs in the illicit 'drugs for guns trade' between Jamaica and Haiti, amongst other Caribbean islands.

“Information points to incidents where animal meats have been exported to Haiti and other Caribbean islands in exchange for motorcycles and other uncustomed goods/items.

“The culprits also trade the stolen meats locally for ganja and other local ground provisions. The trade exists between Clarendon and St Elizabeth.

“There are also others who used the illicit proceeds to support themselves and their families. The profits are also used to acquire vehicles/motorbikes and to fund lavish lifestyles.

“The culprits also steal from farmers in other communities to increase/ boost their livestock.”

Some of the murders committed have also been blamed on the now thriving goat-stealing trade. The police also outlined some of the accompanying implications:

“Praedial larceny/larceny of goats has contributed significantly to the uprising of crime and gang violence in the parish of Clarendon. In the year 2017, a total of 15 murders and 18 shootings were attributed to praedial thefts. The southern section of the parish, primarily the Hayes area and its environs, were badly/mostly affected, relative to the large quantities of animals/goats that were robbed/stolen from farmers.

“There were instances where the victims took up matters into their own hands and this resulted in reprisal attacks that subsequently resulted in murders and shootings. Most recognised was the series of attacks and reprisal attacks that emanated out of the whole praedial larceny ring in the Hayes area and its environs,” the police document said.

The police pointed to the June 6, 2017 gun murder of Jonathan Marathan, a goat farmer in the New Bowens community. “The victim met his demise because he was very vocal against the culprits who stole his animals. His death subsequently resulted in reprisal murders and counter reprisal murders, including a triple murder in the New Bowens area and a double murder in the Monymusk Housing Scheme,” the police said.

“Since the commencement of 2018, investigations have linked eight murders and six shootings to praedial larceny/goat-stealing activities. Most notable was the April 5, 2018 double murder of farmers Altimond Harrison and Vincent Hudson in the Raymonds community. Both farmers were killed whilst attending to their goats. The perpetrators subsequently made good their escape with some of the goats. Since this incident, it is suspected that two persons from the Hayes area were killed in the name of reprisal.

“Between the latter part of 2017 and early 2018, praedial larceny has contributed significantly to the upsurge of crime and violence in the Palmers Cross, 19 Miles and Hazard areas and their environs. Investigation/inquiries were conducted and it was learnt that members of the Palmers Cross-based Webb Lane Gang were behind the uprising of praedial thefts in the area.

“Several cattle/goat farmers in the areas were targeted by those gangsters. The perpetrators would primarily use the cover of darkness to trespass on the farmers' properties, gained entry to their goat pens and then steal their animals.

“There are incidents where some farmers were attacked and shot at whilst trying desperately to protect their animals. Several goat farmers were also intimidated/threatened not to report the incidents to the police, and as a result, numerous incidents were not reported to the police. These types of scenarios also affected several other farmers in various communities parish-wide,” the police document stated.

The Clarendon Police said that it had on record reports that 870 goats were stolen in the parish between January 2017 and August 15, 2018. It also revealed that 568 or 65 per cent of the 870 goats were taken from their rightful owners last year. Since January 1, there have been reports of 302 goats being stolen in the Clarendon Police Ddivision. The number of reports of larceny of goats since this year is 113, the police said.

The police pointed out that the southern zone of the Clarendon Police Division accounted for 723 or 83 per cent of the number of goats stolen in the parish. The areas hardest hit are Exeter, Hayes, Milk River and Lionel Town.

Croft's Hill and Four Paths were also said to be communities that were severely impacted by the lawless practice.

Goat stealing in Clarendon was further thrown in the spotlight on August 4 when the police signalled the driver of a Toyota Caldina motor car to stop along the Hayes main road, but after bringing the vehicle to a halt, the driver ran off in a nearby village. Upon searching the vehicle, 23 goats were found and another man who was in the car — Derron Taylor, 29 of Hollywood Road, Phase II in Hayes — was held and charged with larceny.

The Clarendon police have since listed 'Larceny Goat Hotspots' in all 12 of the policing districts within the parish, and said that they have stepped up initiatives to prevent praedial larceny.

Deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations Clifford Blake said positive efforts were made to squeeze the practice and allow goat farmers to do what they had chosen to do in peace.

“We are aware of the incidents of larceny involving the stealing of goats and we are prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that it is eradicated,” Blake told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

“The police are also aware that gang members have been profiting from the theft of goats and there is a link now with the guns for drugs trade with Haiti. The police will double our efforts to bring a halt to the proceedings,” Blake stated.

Blake, who has acted as commissioner of police and is widely regarded as the number two man to Major General Antony Anderson, also said: “The stealing of goats in Clarendon is akin to lotto scamming in some of our western Jamaica parishes. It's really bad, but the police are going to conquer it.”

Scamming activities have changed normal life in the terrain of the west.

The Clarendon police, too, have said that their efforts to stop the illegal activity were paying off, as perpetrators have been held and convicted and animals seized. This included the recovery of 23 goats when police intercepted a vehicle transporting them. Motor vehicles have also been seized and other offenders are facing the court.

In the summary of the report, the Clarendon police admitted that praedial larceny, particularly of goats, was a major headache, more so when taking into account that the livelihood of several farmers and their families, whose primary or only economic activity is animal husbandry, have been badly affected.

“In many instances the cruel thieves made off with all the animals, leaving the victims/farmers and their families to suffer,” the Clarendon Police said.

“The situation is now compounded by the fact that illicit activities have been linked to criminal groups and gangs who operate animal stealing rings to finance their unlawful activities. It is now widely believed, and has been said, that goat meats have surrogated ganja, and criminal elements are now trading same for illegal firearms and other uncustomed goods,” the police said.

“The illicit practices/trades are being conducted primarily at the regional and local levels. The fact that praedial larceny is one of the main contributing factors behind violent crimes, inclusive of murders and shootings, is now a serious cause for concern in Clarendon and, by extension, the country.

“Meanwhile, the victims and their families continue to voice their opinions, indicating that the penalties handed down to some of the offenders/defendants are not severe enough to dissuade them and others from carrying out similar crimes. It is their view that the court cases are too lengthy and as a result they felt disheartened.”

There is also a recommendation from the Clarendon police for a praedial larceny offenders' registry to be introduced to deal with convicts, in particular the habitual ones.


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