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Impact on increasing sell price of cinnamon bark to Kerinci’s crime rate

This blog post emerged as one of the five winners that participated in the YPARD and AGRINATURA e-competition for the PhD. Category. The competition which was tagged ‘your Research your Story!’ aimed to help students have a better sense of ownership of their research and to communicate the most important parts of their research in a creative easy to read storytelling way.

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Since the market price of cinnamon bark from the species Cinnamomum burmannii (Nees & T. Nees) Blume had increased in 2014, the raw material became one of the most important trade value and income in Kerinci Regency's economy. However, like other economic sectors, the spices industry has threats, such as increased production costs, unpredictable weather, low investment, and crime/theft. In particular, crime has reached alarming levels in the regency, with some villages like Gunung Raya subdistrict areas experiencing the highest criminal activity increase. Cinnamon bark theft in Kerinci Regency is a well-organized crime syndicate that involves individual unscrupulous community members (outside Kerinci) who want to make money stealing raw material cinnamon bark from the farmers, in which they had waited 5 – 15 years of harvest time. The crime rate in rural Kerinci Regency, West-Sumatera, Indonesia, has increased, with most of the crimes related to cinnamon bark theft. Hardly a day goes by in Kerinci regency without the local media reporting the crime against the theft of cinnamon bark and farmers' actions to prevent the sacrifice from recurring (Kerincitime.co.id).

The thieves peel the cinnamon bark at night, transport it with motorcycles, and rushed to the nearest middleman to sell the bark at three-quarters (3/4) of the regular price so that residents are not suspicious. This crime risk situation is exacerbated by the geographical and topographic characteristics of rural areas in the Kerinci regency. Many of the cinnamon farmers in Kerinci live far from their properties (plots), and most of the time, they are not available to guard their property for 24 hours. The commute takes 30 minutes to 1 hour to reach the location; in other words, it is very isolated. This opportunity gives thieves the perfect opportunity to steal and peel the cinnamon bark with little chance of getting caught. Unfortunately, most of these crimes were not investigated and administratively well by the local police. Therefore, official police crime reports do not reflect the actual cinnamon theft in the Kerinci regency, particularly in some remote areas. Therefore, the continuous loss of bark makes the community unease and brutal in which ultimately killed the thieves that are captured by hand. Unlike Sungai Penuh city, where law enforcement is present, rural areas and villages experience limited police quick response on this matter. In most cases, police visits are limited, and if they do, it is a follow-up to an investigation or report of violent crime or other illegal behaviour. Rarely are they serious about investigating property crimes, especially against agriculture, preferring to prioritize and resource for "urgent and important" offences such as murder, rape, and tenure conflicts. Cinnamon bark theft in Kerinci District is becoming more professional, with criminal events well planned, choreographed, and coordinated, therefore, leaving little trace of evidence and making it more difficult to track and make arrests (M.berito.id).

Thieves are targeting cinnamon plots, which are easily accessible and can quickly sell this commodity. The criminal activity also takes place at certain times and seasons of the year, such as the rainy season when it is more difficult to access for others. Cinnamon farmers nowadays take standard security precautions, such as peeling the bottom to top, night guarding (patrolling) in the fields, establishing temporary huts on their property to prevent theft of cinnamon bark at night. Crime in rural areas, especially the theft of cinnamon bark, creates difficulties for farmers who may not have adequate resources and knowledge about prevention. Preventing the theft of cinnamon bark is a severe problem for Kerinci farmers who are forced to take action by enduring cold nights guarding their properties or deliberately killing suspected perpetrators. Against this background, my hypothesis is to test the effectiveness of crime prevention interventions from the farmers' perspective. Therefore, the main question is how to prevent cinnamon bark theft and crime prevention strategies at the village and group levels in the future?

Picture credit: Sidi Rana Menggala