KARACHI: The city witnessed during just concluded 2021 a significant surge in all types of crimes, indicating likelihood of re-emergence of armed and organised criminal gangs, with relatively little success by law enforcement agencies to rein in criminals, revealed officials and data on Saturday.

Police officials, however, believed that Covid-caused unemployment, increasing cost of living and mushroom growth of slum areas might have contributed to the recent rise in crimes.

The data reviewed by Dawn showed an increase in snatching or theft of vehicles, cell phones, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, murders and bank robberies in 2021 as compared to 2020.

As many as 235 cars were snatched and 1,841 were stolen in the outgoing year as compared to 194 four-wheelers snatched and 1,527 stolen in 2020. Similarly, 4,410 motorbikes were snatched and 45,898 were stolen in the outgoing year as against 2,424 two-wheelers hijacked at gunpoint and 35,283 lifted in 2020, according to the data compiled by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC).

Compared to 2020, incidents of snatching of cars, cell phones, kidnappings for ransom, bank heists increased in 2021

As per data, 25,059 mobile phones were snatched in 2021 as compared to 21,558 cell phones snatched during 2020.

CPLC chief Zubair Habib said that all types of crimes had witnessed an increase in the outgoing year as compared to the data of 2020. However, the most disturbing thing was ‘snatching element’ (snatching of vehicles and mobile phones on gunpoint) which had risen in the just ended year although the snatching had been gradually decreasing in the metropolis since the launch of Karachi operation in 2013.

He said that deteriorating economic conditions due to Covid pandemic, increasing cost of living and growing unemployment might be linked to the recent rise in crimes. Private sector was also not absorbing the growing army of the jobless in the metropolis, he regretted.

He suggested launching social safety programmes for the poor, controlling proliferation of arms, accountability of police and use of modern technology to help eliminate crimes.

A senior police officer, who wished not to be named, said that it was wrong to compare this year’s crime data with the years of 2019 and 2020 as crimes had significantly dropped in the two years because of strict Covid-related restrictions on the movement of people when lockdowns were imposed frequently for one or two weeks.

Admitting increase in street crimes, the officer said that there might be social issues behind the increase in crimes. Covid-induced unemployment and inflation had increased poverty and it was directly proportional to crimes, he said.

Moreover, he said there was mushroom growth of slum areas in the metropolis where criminals stayed temporarily and tended to leave these places after committing crimes in the city.

Furthermore, the officer said, there were “safe havens” for stolen vehicles particularly in Makran region of Balochistan where “almost every third person owns cars lifted in Karachi as these are cheaper and there appears to be no fear of law. The vehicles can be seen plying in these areas without any number plate, just carrying plates inscribed with caste/tribe of the inmates/riders”.

“There is high demand for stolen cars in certain areas of Balochistan that may be directly linked to rising figures of vehicles lifted in Karachi,” observed the officer.

The officer recalled that last month, the city police chief Additional IG Imran Yaqoob Minhas had held a meeting with electronic dealers to persuade them to keep record of sale and purchase of mobile phones as part of concerted efforts to control cell phones’ snatching.

Meanwhile, Anti-Vehicles Lifting Cell SSP Bashir Ahmed Brohi said that as the first step they had started action against buyers of lifted vehicles and in this regard, five persons had been identified in Balochistan where most vehicles stolen in the metropolis ended up.

Secondly, the AVLC had recommended to the Sindh government to announce head money ranging from Rs3 million to 10m for the arrest or killing of nine ‘notorious’ criminals involved in snatching and theft of vehicles, he said.

Thirdly, he said, after series of meetings between the police and FIA, it had been decided to take action against ‘criminals and buyers’ of the vehicles under money laundering laws under which their CNICs would be blocked and properties would be attached. “The AVLC has sent a list of 17 criminals and buyers to the FIA for verification of their assets,” revealed Mr Brohi.

Fourthly, he said, liaison with police and Levies in Balochistan and district police in Sindh had been enhanced where joint raids had been conducted, resulting in busting of 60 gangs.

The SSP disclosed that action against ‘black sheep’ in police had also been started and AVLC Karachi SHO who served on this post for a considerable period before being transferred recently was being probed over charges of his involvement in lifting of vehicles.

He believed that linking of Madadgar-15 with AVLC and tracker companies and SSPs of bordering districts through social networking groups would be helpful in taking timely action and controlling crimes.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022

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