KARACHI: Police have identified at least 91 gangs involved in street crimes and prepared a strategy to tackle them by launching crackdowns and sting operations in cooperation with traders’ bodies and intelligence agencies, it emerged on Wednesday.

“There are at least 91 gangs involved in street crimes,” said city police chief Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh.

Of them, 75 gangs had been busted with the help of intelligence agencies, particularly the Intelligence Bureau, but regrettably many members of these gangs got released owing to problems in the criminal justice system, he added.

He identified motorbike lifting, snatching of mobile phones and cash as three major categories of street crimes that had become a big challenge for law enforcers.

20 motorcycle-lifting gangs

Police said there were a host of reasons behind continued lifting of motorbikes from different parts of the metropolis.

The police report identified at least 20 gangs involved in theft of motorbikes.

The snatched/stolen motorbikes were being transported to Hub, Balochistan, rural areas of Sindh and Punjab and different junkyards of Karachi. Motorcycle frames were melted and scrapped and their spare parts were disassembled and sold in the market at a cheaper price.

There is no proper liaison between police and DHA to curb street crimes in Defence

“Stolen parts are sold as second-hand parts,” said a police report seen by Dawn.

From Hub, some motorcycles, particularly heavy bikes, were being sold in their original form to people living in rural areas/villages.

In the city, parts dismantled from stolen two-wheelers were also being sold at Shershah, Banaras, Ranchhore Line and Garden East markets.

Police demand bribes from bikers

The police report also highlighted the problems being faced by the victims whose motorcycles were either snatched or stolen.

It said they did not take interest in the recovery of their bikes due to lengthy and difficult legal process and its high cost.

The bikes were usually not in their original shape when recovered and the legal process was considered “very long and troublesome”.

The report also conceded that policemen subjected the victims to harassment. “Officials demand a bribe for the recovery of motorcycle,” the report said.

The report also admitted that there was no accountability of such policemen and the attitude of police officials towards the victims was “not good”.

If a bike was stolen and transported to a different province like Balochistan, its recovery got expensive for the owner as they had to hire a lawyer and go through a very long process of completing legal formalities. “Altogether, the expense shoots up compared to the original cost of the motorcycle.”

It has been revealed that the recovery usually costs around Rs18,000-20,000 per motorcycle.

As part of the strategy against street crimes, the city police decided to set up an anti-motorcycle lifting squad.

This squad would conduct raids on dumping/disposal place, maintain and update the record of active criminals, carry out decoy operations to arrest them, gather intelligence through sources/mobile data, keep vigil on criminals being released from jails and strengthen the prosecution of cases.

Besides, it would also conduct a crime analysis about patterns, pockets of crime, modus operandi, etc, and establish picketing and snap-checking.

Moreover, this unit would also maintain database of stolen/snatched bikes across the province with the help of Madadgar 15 calls and FIRs, organise awareness campaign among motorcyclists regarding safety measures with other stakeholders, like the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee and bike manufacturers.

It would also conduct inspections of markets/shops involved in the sale and purchase of spare parts of bikes.

Mobile phone/cash snatching incidents

Police considered the snatching of mobile phones and cash as another serious challenge.

Major hotspots of such street crime are ATMs, traffic jams, and deserted streets.

The city police chief said as part of anti-street crimes’ strategy, they would focus on blocking the IMEI number of a snatched mobile phone and raids on illegal markets.

Dr Shaikh said that they had held talks with the Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (Keda) and they would persuade shopkeepers to help police to arrest suspects involved in snatching of cell phones when they visit them to sell the stolen items.

Besides, they would encourage the victims of mobile phone snatchings to inform the CPLC about IMEI numbers to discard such snatched/stolen phones.

With the help of CCTV footage, photos of criminals at large would be made public through media and social media.

The police also decided to set up an anti-street crime squad to be led by an SP, the city police chief said.

He observed that street crimes posed a serious challenge for police and this squad would be launched very soon. It will support local police by using methodology of prevention by detection.

It would maintain centralised database of all arrested suspects with complete profiles and pictures and ensure coordination with the IB.

The district in-charges of this squad will send details of snatched cell phones daily to the district/zonal police. The IT team of the police will run IMEI numbers of the snatched mobile phones on a daily basis and plan operations in coordination with other units of the police.

This squad would also run the criminals’ database, identify street criminals and take action against them. They would also monitor street criminals who were in jail and keep tabs on them after release from prison.

The police were also strengthening investigation wing to prepare strong cases against repeat offenders and there was also a proposal to set up separate courts for street crimes.

IGP Kaleem Imam had tasked DIG Headquarters Abdul Khalique Shaikh to hold talks with the authorities concerned in this regard, said Dr Shaikh.

No liaison between DHA, police

The police report claimed that the ratio of kidnapping for ransom cases was almost “zero” but a recent case of kidnapping of a girl from the Defence Housing Authority was considered an “eye-opener”.

The kidnappers used latest VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology and the police did not have the technology or knowhow to detect/locate the IP address/MAC address or data SIM numbers, the report said.

Dr Shaikh told Dawn that of the total 415 CCTV cameras installed in DHA, 125 were “not functioning properly”.

He added that a police survey showed that around 70 per cent streetlights were not functioning in DHA. Besides, there was no proper liaison between the police and the DHA to curb street crimes there.

The city police chief said that they recently raised these issues before DHA authorities and the Sindh governor.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2019