KARACHI: While official figures indicate that over 21,000 cases of street crime took place in the first three months of 2023, the actual figure appears to be way higher than the reported one as a large number of victims were either denied registration of FIRs or they themselves chose not to approach law enforcers due to lack of trust in them.

According to police, incidents of mobile phone snatching, robberies and motorcycle/car snatching has fallen in the category of street crime. In 2022, around 85,000 cases, while 21,544 such cases were reported during the current year till March 31.

While 34 innocent citizens were killed by muggers over resistance in the metropolis during the first three months, the Karachi police claimed to have killed over a dozen criminals in encounters and arrested over 650.

Thousands of people have been deprived of either their cell phone or their motorcycle in the metropolis during the current year. Most of them reported the incident to police, but there are several incidents that have gone unreported.

In many cases, police grill victims instead of taking prompt action; several incidents go unreported due to police behaviour

Dawn spoke to many victims of street crime who opted to go to police stations concerned to report a crime but despite several visits failed to get their FIR registered.

A young man, Muhammad Kashif, told Dawn he had become a victim of the street crime five times in three years, but he never succeeded in getting an FIR registered. “Every time, they [police] gave me a katchi report — an entry in the roznamcha, or daily diary, of the police station — but no FIR,” he added.

Young Abubakar Awan was, in the recent past, deprived of his cell phone and other valuables by armed muggers in Nazimabad. He told Dawn he went to the Nazimabad police station to lodge an FIR, but the attitude of the police was so discouraging that he returned home without lodging the FIR. He said police grilled him in a manner as if they considered him the real criminal. “I left [the police station] without any hope,” he said.

Last month, a young A-level student was deprived of his cell phone at gunpoint in Federal B Area when he got off from a rickshaw to meet a friend. His parents got the SIM blocked but chose not to report the incident to the police as they believe it would be a waste of time.

And in some cases in which FIRs were lodged within 24 hours of the incident, the response of the police was lethargic.

Police unmoved despite viral videos

Videos of CCTV cameras are increasingly going viral on social media in which it’s clearly seen that even women are not safe these days in Karachi.

A last year’s incident in which armed men looted around 20 people at a teashop within close proximity of the Gulshan-i-Iqbal police station is one example in which the crime did not get the attention of police until the CCTV footage of the robbery went viral on social media.

The incident took place on the night of Dec 27, 2022 when two men, one carrying a rifle, approached scores of people sitting at a teashop, held them at gunpoint, collected their cell phones and wallets, and rode away on their motorbike.

Some of the victims told Dawn that those who were deprived of their valuables went to the nearby police station to report the incident. The policemen asked multiple questions before registering the FIR. The police later visited the teashop, inspected the area, and asked them to go home.

They said no one from the police contacted them for two days until they [victims] retrieved the CCTV footage of the incident using their own contacts. When the video went viral on social media, the SHO concerned called the victims, asking them to come see him at the police station. When they reached there, he questioned why they put the video on social media and then asked them to give him all the details.

One of the victims, whose iPhone was snatched, managed to locate his phone near Alladin Park the same night. He informed the police, but they asked him to wait, and after a considerable delay, when they were ready to change the location of the phone, around a week after the incident, the iPhone Finder shows the location of the snatched phone in Hyderabad, which suggests robbers may have left Karachi.

“We have no hope or expectation from the Sindh police,” said one of the victims, asking not to be named. “We believe this incident would be forgotten with time, and no one would deliver us justice.”

Former Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Jameel Yousuf, however, says the crime rate has decreased since the 1990s, but it’s still a concern for the people.

He told Dawn that it was unfortunate that, despite having resources, law enforcement agencies that were designed to deal with the issue of street crime were not playing their roles. “They must be accountable to the citizens for their losses and lack of responsibility.

Mr Yousuf said that the police should focus on advanced technologies such as centralised mapping systems and tracking technologies.

He said that the CIA police should primarily track down criminals, no matter where they are traced. They should also conduct strict snap-checking in order to reduce the city’s crime rate.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2023

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