KARACHI, Aug 23: Police investigators in Karachi have found a major shift in crime trend that has diverted gangs’ attention from kidnapping for ransom to extortion. Data shows that in Ramazan alone more than 100 complaints were registered against the recently-grown threat compared to a mere half a dozen cases of abduction reported in the 30 days of the holy month, it emerged on Wednesday.

The data compiled by the police and the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) suggest that incidents of kidnapping for ransom that used to grow during Ramazan mainly during the last five years remained on the lower side than before, bringing the police proactive performance against the crime to the limelight and reflecting criminal gangs’ mounting interest in extortion.

“During Ramazan a total of six cases of kidnapping for ransom were reported,” said an official. “But 155 people, mainly traders, came up with complaints of extortion threats from different individuals and gangs. So it shows a decline in one crime that leads to a rise in another.”

The police investigators and people having a hands-on experience of probes into such cases believe that extortion is a much easier job than kidnapping for ransom, which involves multiple risks.

Extortion that mainly targets traders and industrialists hardly requires investment in operations and in most of the cases returns desired results. The experts said they believe though the active policing against kidnapping for ransom gangs had led to the decrease in that crime rate, it is also the easier extortion job that attracts more and more gangs and individuals to that racket.

“The shift in interest is visible,” said Ahmed Chinoy, the CPLC chief. “Kidnapping for ransom operations always involves risks much more than extortion and we have a history of kidnappers’ killings and arrests in encounters during the course of investigations. So these gangs we have seen mainly in Ramazan moved to extortion business.”

Extortion — the recently-grown and booming crime — has emerged as a serious challenge for the investigators who see technological barriers and a lack of resources among several other anomalies that also came to the surface when incidents of kidnapping started gearing up a few years ago.

“But still we keep moving within our mandate and resources, and in recent development we have spotted and recognised a number of individuals and gangs involved in this racket,” said SP Khurram Waris of the special investigation unit — mandated to probe heinous crimes from bank robberies to terrorism and extortion — while referring to the recently-released names and photographs of the 10 ‘most wanted extortionists’.

“Definitely it’s easier than kidnapping for ransom and I’m not saying that those 10 are the only gangsters involved in this crime, but I can definitely say that they are the key operators of this business.”

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