With praedial larceny said to be wrecking havoc on the farming community, local agricultural officials have resorted to unorthodox means in a desperate bid to catch thieves red handed.
This morning officials of Viral Media Inc. unveiled a pilot project on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management that will see to the introduction of drone technology in the fight against praedial larceny.
The initiative, which was said to be the brainchild of Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, also involves local farmers, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Barbados Defence Force.
“The idea is to intercept and deter and once you have found an intruder on your property, the best thing to do is to call the police,” said Director of Viral Media Inc. Kevin Seale while demonstrating to farmers how the drone technology would actually work.
As part of the pilot project, farmers are to receive training on flying drones.
However, in view of the temporary ban announced last year on the use of such surveillance equipment, officials acknowledged today that changes would have to be made to the domestic laws to allow for their unfettered use in the agricultural industry.
While welcoming the planned deployment of drones in the fight against praedial larceny, the Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul today expressed concern that the surveillance technology could end up in the wrong hands.
“Technology can work for you or it can work against you, depending on who is operating it. The question of the regulations is something that is going to be extremely important . . . and we cannot dismiss the necessity of putting in regulations, because if you allow the technology to go far and abroad, the same way, for instance, you think you are smart enough . . . to outsmart these [thieves], they can also use the technology to outsmart you,” he cautioned, while calling for the appropriate regulations to be first put in place before the project is launched.
“It can actually accelerate things like crop theft and animal theft because of the fact that you are using superior technology . . . and in the same way it can get into the hands of the farmers, it can get into the hands of crooks also,” he further cautioned, while suggesting that farmers should continue to use traditional security means in order to cover all bases.
Just last month, popular radio caller Ronald Mr Agriculture Layne was hauled before the law courts here for stealing 80 lbs. of cassava from the Mount Plantation, St George. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 in what was the latest publicized incident of praedial larceny.
However, while welcoming the drone initiative, Acting Assistant Superintendent of Police David Wiltshire agreed with Paul that regulation of the aerial vehicles was critical.
He also cautioned that the operators of the technology must be trained in preserving the integrity of the evidence but said the use of the devices should go a long way to assisting police in terms of their national coverage.
“When you take into consideration that we have some manpower deficits, we cannot realistically respond to every event in a timely manner nor can we provide that required presence and dedicated presence to police all of these farmlands,” he told Barbados TODAY, while noting that the evidence captured by drones was admissible in court.