MOST citizens of Karachi have either been held up at gunpoint themselves, or have friends or family members who have gone through this terrifying ordeal. In fact, muggers do not have the slightest compunction in pulling the trigger at even a hint of resistance. Many valuable lives have been lost for not handing over a mobile phone or wallet. Recent data compiled by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, published in this paper on Monday, has revealed that despite a drop in other violent crimes, the epidemic of street crime continues unabated in the metropolis. The data says that in 2016, over 34,000 mobile phones were either snatched or stolen across Karachi; moreover, the CPLC has zeroed in on 60 ‘hot spots’ spread out across the vast expanse of the city that are particularly prone to street crime. The seriousness of the situation can be gauged by the fact that during last week’s meeting of Sindh’s Apex Committee, the provincial chief minister ordered the administration to carry out a “vigorous operation” against street crime.
The effort of compiling data is commendable as it gives law enforcers some sort of baseline to work with, though it can be argued that the figures cited here may only be the tip of the iceberg; due to the mostly lethargic response of the police, many victims of street crime are reluctant to report their mobile phones, wallets or vehicles as snatched or stolen. Now that areas particularly prone to street crime have been identified, the police have no excuse to not crack down on this menace. Constant patrolling in the areas, as well as the deployment of undercover personnel and plainclothesmen, can help catch criminals in the act, and make these neighbourhoods safer for citizens. Reduction in the incidence of targeted killings, kidnappings, extortion and other violent crimes have indeed allowed the people of Karachi to breathe easier; however, citizens will only be able to sleep easy once street crime is controlled.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2017