• CPLC data shows rise in car, motorcycle snatching cases in 2023
• Cases of extortion and kidnappings continued unabated
• Mobile phone snatching decreased by 2pc
• 80pc cases of crimes go unreported, claims CPLC chief Zubair Habib

KARACHI: The official figures showing a disturbing increase in incidents of snatching of cars and motorbikes, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and homicide in the year 2023 as compared to 2022, were termed ‘deceitful’ and only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ because the actual statistics were much higher keeping in view the hurdles victims faced in registration of crime incidents to police, it emerged on Wednesday.

Interestingly, the numbers of other categories of street crimes, like theft of four-wheelers and two-wheelers, mobile phone snatching and bank robberies were surprisingly shown almost same as in 2022.

According to crime comparison data maintained by the Citizens-Police Liaison Commi­ttee (CPLC), 63per cent increase in snatching of four-wheelers was reported as a total of 262 cars were snatched at gunpoint from January to Dec 2023 as compared to snatching of 161 vehicles in 2022.

Theft of four-wheelers increased to three per cent as total 2,043 cars were stolen in outgoing year while 2,105 cars were lifted last year.

Irfan Khan
Irfan Khan

The CPLC data shows that 7,265 motorcycles were snatched at gunpoint in the year 2023 whereas 4,970 two-wheelers were snatched in 2022, showing 46pc increase.

However, theft of motorbikes remained almost the same as 51,873 two-wheelers were stolen in 2023 while 51,901 were snatched in 2022.

Curiously, the CPLC data showed that snatching of mobile phones decreased around two per cent. It said that 27,984 mobile phones were snatched in 2023 whereas the city residents were deprived of 28,561 cell phones in 2022.

The data revealed that 17 incidents of kidnapping for ransom took place in 2023 while 13 such incidents had occurred in 2022, showing 31pc increase.

The CPLC said that incidents of extortion (bhatta) had also witnessed an increase of over 300pc as the figures showed that 50 incidents of extortion were reported in 2023 while 12 such cases had appeared in 2022, reflecting a significant increase of 317pc.

As many as 645 murders took place in 2023 on account of various reasons while 593 people were killed in 2022, which shows that killings had increased by 9pc.

However, incident of bank robberies remained the same in 2023 as they were reported in 2022 as two incidents happened each year.

‘Police register fewer FIRs to hide actual crime rate CPLC chief Zubair Habib told Dawn that over 60pc and around 50pc increase in incidents of snatching of four-wheelers and two-wheelers showed that the use of guns was rapidly increasing in the street crimes, which had reduced in the recent past, particularly after the launch of the Karachi operation in 2013.

He recalled that after launching the operation, incidents of theft of vehicles were increasing but now the disturbing trend of gun use in street crimes was growing. It was partly because the institution responsible for fighting against snatching/stealing of vehicles was not working, he said, pointing out that since Aug 11, 2021, eight SSPs of Anti-Vehicles Lifting Cell (AVLC) had been posted/transferred.

That means that during the last 26 months, one SSP of the AVLC served over three months only, he said and added that the AVLC was a specialised unit and if the tenure of head of its institution would be of a few months, they would not work as they should be.

The CPLC head regretted that the police were not registering FIRs of the crimes, allegedly to show a decline in crime rate and pointed out that over 76,000 FIRs were registered in the year 2022 but only over 65,000 FIRs were registered in 2023.

He wondered as to how this was possible when, besides other crimes, over 60,000 cars and motorbikes were snatched/stolen alone in 2023. “The crimes are increasing everywhere and Karachi cannot be an exception, if it is an exception, it is a deceit,” said the CPLC head.

He lamented that the police used to call robbery victims three to four times for registration of FIRs and just provided them a chit/letter. Thus, discouraging the people from lodging the FIRs.

Citing ‘solving’ of all cases of kidnapping for ransom, Mr Habib opined that wherever the police and other law enforcement agencies showed ‘interest’, positive results were achieved.

Regarding manifold increase in extortion cases, he said that at the time of approaching elections and political uncertainty, the crimes used to increase as criminals took advantage of such situations because the police remained ‘extra alert’ for law and order situations.

He observed that the data of all crimes taking place in 2023 may be only 20-25pc of actual crimes that took place in the metropolis. It may not be correct that incidents of mobile phone snatchings had decreased as the robbery victims might not have lodged FIRs, he added.

Call to make easy FIR registration process

He suggested that registration of FIRs should be made easy to ascertain actual numbers and trends of crimes, adding that there were certain areas in the metropolis where certain localities could be called ‘crime hubs’ where constant patrolling and concerted actions/operations were needed by law enforcers to control crimes.

“Operations should be conducted in the jurisdictions of Manghopir, Mochko, Site Superhighway, Gulshan-i-Maymar, Surjani Town and Sachal police,” recommended the CPLC chief, adding that these police stations were linked with highways where mud roads existed that provided an easy access/escape to criminals.

Dawn approached Karachi police chief Khadim Husain Rind but he did not respond.

However, sources told Dawn that IGP Sindh Riffat Mukhtar Raja in his recent meeting with caretaker chief minister of Sindh retired Justice Maqbool Baqar had admitted an increase in street crimes in the provincial capital and cited ‘divided attention’ of the police as the probable cause of such surge.

“There is a surge in street crime in Karachi,” the police chief was quoted as having said. He added that it was because of the ‘divided focus of Karachi police on illegal foreigners’ repatriation plan), anti-smuggling campaigns, anti-electricity theft campaign, police record maintenance (first time) and arrest of proclaimed offenders.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2024

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