KARACHI: As law enforcement agencies count successes in operation against terrorists, banned outfits and militant wings of political and religious parties to restore peace in Karachi, the city is facing an alarming increase in the menace of street crime.
During the first quarter of the current year, all records of the same period last year stood broken; and more than 30 people were killed while resisting armed robberies and mugging attempts.
During the first three months of 2021, Karachiites lost millions of rupees in armed robberies and snatching at gunpoint with no district of the city remaining safe from the reach of criminals.
The data compiled by security administration and gathered by Dawn shows that despite a growing number of cases and widespread coverage of street crime by the mainstream media and rising number of people’s complaints, such incidents witnessed an upward trend in all the three months.
5,982 cell phones, 1,055 motorbikes and 477 cars snatched in the city from January to March
Among other acts of robbery and mugging, a rise in the number of cell phone and motorbike snatching at gunpoint — key indicators of the street crime — shows the fast loosening grip of the police and law enforcement agencies when it comes to maintaining writ of the state.
The figures suggest that between January and March, 1,055 motorbikes were snatched at gunpoint in different areas of the city and another 10,916 two-wheelers were stolen in various neighbourhoods.
During the same period in 2020, 525 motorbikes were stanched and 7,414 were stolen, showing a growth in the criminal trend at a staggering pace.
Similarly, 5,982 cell phones were snatched in different parts of the city during the first three months of 2021, breaking the record of the last year’s first quarter when 5,105 people lost their mobile phones to armed robbers.
The number of snatching and theft of four-wheelers remained high during the first three months of 2021 as a total of 477 cases were reported compared to 472 during the same period last year.
Re-emergence of kidnapping for ransom
The data shows another dangerous criminal trend re-emerging in the city during the first three months of 2021 when the Karachi police registered five cases of kidnapping for ransom.
No such case was reported during the entire first quarter of the last year.
The first quarter of 2021 also witnessed a bank robbery when armed men stormed a private bank branch in New Karachi in March, held security guards at gunpoint and walked off with over Rs1 million.
34 killed by robbers upon resistance Amid the rise in street crime, there appeared no respite in the killing of innocent people during armed robberies and mugging attempts.
A total of 98 people were murdered during the first three months of 2021 and official data says 34 of them were killed while putting resistance to armed bandits.
In some neighbourhoods, street crime has become so regular a feature that it started testing patience of the area people.
Only a few days ago, in Orangi Town an armed mugging attempt led to the killing of a young man and enraged residents, who blamed the police for failing to establish its writ in the densely populated neighbourhood and took to the street to register a protest.
They said four armed men riding two motorbikes snatched cash and valuables from an elderly person, later identified as Qutubuddin, and when he tried to overpower one of them and shouted for help the muggers thrashed him badly and fired multiple shots randomly to keep onlookers people away. One of the bullets hit 38-year-old Rashid Ishtiaq in the chest and he died on the spot. The bandits rode away but the situation sparked anger among the area people who took to the street and blocked the main road chanting slogans against the police and local administration.
“It has become a routine in this area,” said Shamsul Islam, an area shopkeeper. “The armed men almost daily rob people in broad daylight. The police have been approached several times and after every incident they increase patrolling for a day or two and then disappear. Not a single arrest has been made in this regard for months.”
The key road link remained blocked for a couple of hours before the authorities intervened and managed to restore the traffic flow after dispersing the protesters assuring them of strong measures to curb street crime.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2021