Chinese officials on Tuesday were quick to declare Pakistan a safe country when the Punjab police recovered within 24 hours a sum of Rs0.5 million which was stolen from their residence in Lahore.
After the recovery, Chinese citizen Robin proclaimed, "now Pakistan is not a terrorist country... It is a safe country."
The positive press for the provincial police force comes on the back of fears that Lahore is experiencing a spike in crime after a robbery at a traffic signal in Faisal Town caught on video went viral on social media, raising questions about the police’s proficiency at fighting crime in the provincial capital.
The footage captured by a motorist at the signal shows robbers riding two motorcycles looting a family in the midst of dozens of motorists in broad daylight.
A witness told police the robbers shot at the car, damaging its windscreen, before they robbed the family inside of jewellery and cash worth more than Rs400,000.
Anger in Lahore
The incident sparked speculation that Lahore, despite a heavy investment in law enforcement such as the newly-inaugurated Dolphin Force is battling a steep rise in crime in recent years.
Users on social media commenting on the video shared their experiences being mugged in various parts of the city.
"I've been through the same situation in Gulberg and I won't blame the people around as the thieves were armed and they had me at gunpoint," said one.
Another remarked: "Despite the fact Lahore has Dolphin Force, Elite Force, Mujahid Force and so many others, such incidents happen routinely and are a slap on corrupt and incompetent government that has failed to provide security to its citizens."
Omer Jahangir, one of the victims of the viral mugging, told Dawn earlier that although he had used the same route for seven years, "nothing like this ever happened".
"The government has spent huge amounts on the police department to raise multiple forces to fight street crime. But they cannot overcome the problem."
But is crime really going up?
If one were to judge the anger on social media, Lahore's patrolling force models such as the Mujahid Squad, the Tiger Squad, Dolphin Force and the Mohafiz Force ─ all raised to fight street crime ─ appear to have failed.
However, numbers obtained from police stations by Dawn tell a different story.
While some members of the police force do acknowledge that the forces "downplay" incidents of crime and even compensate complainants with cash and mobile phones instead of registering FIRs, the stats overall are promising.
Stats show improvement
Police crime data recording incidents of crime with FIRs registered against them reveals that a year after the PML-N government was elected, crime in Lahore rose from 12,328 in 2013 to 12,981 in 2014.
Since then, crime in Lahore appears to have plummeted sharply, with 8,860 cases reported by the end of November this year.
In 2016, there are nearly 2,000 less cases of crime compared to 2015, during which 10,668 cases were reported.
Furthermore, incidents of crime registered in November were the lowest they’ve been this year, save April in which just 20 less incidents of crime were registered.
November saw a drop of nearly 100 incidents of crime at 690 as compared to October which had 791.
Lahore is divided up into six divisions. The population of the city is approximately 3 million people.
Police recorded the highest number of incidents of crime in Saddar division this year (2,058) followed by Model Town (1,566), City (1,430), Cannt (1,402), Iqbal Town 1,270) and Civil Lines (1,042).
In contrast, City has the highest police deployment followed by Cantt, Saddar, Model Town, Iqbal Town and Civil Lines.
Iqbal Town shows the greatest difference between incidents of crime and police deployment.
Details of ops
On paper the total police force, including operations, investigations, the Dolphin Force and the Police Response Unit (PRU) ─ a patrolling force introduced by the city police ─ comes to 33,000, according to police sources.
However, sources claim the actual number is much lower ─ 27,000. And the number of policemen deployed around the city, both in operations and investigations, stands at just 17,000. The total number of operational personnel comes down to a little less than 6,500.
Total division-wise police deployment is too low to effectively fight crime, sources said.
Superintendent Police Mujahid and Mobiles Karrar Hussain Syed earlier told Dawn that only 40 per cent of the city was covered by the PRU and the Dolphin Force.
Both forces have less than half the necessary vehicles required to cover the city during patrols.
Additionally, the PRU has only 500 personnel, as compared to an estimate of 6,000 officials needed, whereas the Dolphin Force has only 700 compared to a need for 4,500 personnel.
Although incidents of crime registered exhibit a marked decline since the PML-N came to power, it is possible that more efficient distribution and availability of police resources may improve the police's ability to fight crime.
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The five most common crimes in Lahore are motorcycle theft, robbery, car theft, motorcycle snatching and murder.
Motorcycle and car theft are far more prevalent than motorcycle and car snatching.
In the Sadar division, robbery outstripped motorcycle theft overall from 2013-16.
The difference between incidents of motorcycle theft and robbery is very small in the Cantt area, although the total incidences of both crimes is much lower in this division.
Nearly twice as much motorcycle theft has been recorded in the City and Civil Lines divisions.
Civil Lines, however, records a significantly lower amount of motorcycle theft compared to City.
A similar number of incidents of murder were recorded in Cantt and City from 2013-16.
The proportion of crime in Cantt and Sadar increased from 2013-15, and then dropped in 2016.
The opposite trend was seen in Iqbal Town from 2013-15, where crime dropped and then rose again in 2016.
Overall proportion of crime in Model Town compared to other parts of Lahore exhibited a consistent decrease from 2013-16.