• Unlike Karachi, recovery of looted valuables encourages Lahorites to lodge FIRs, says official
• Ex-CPLC chief Yusuf calls for recruiting IT graduates in police, cell phone insurance

KARACHI: The menace of street crime has become a big challenge for the government and security administration but the crime rate could significantly be reduced in Karachi by using technology, profiling criminals, implementing the long-delayed safe city project, carrying out amendments to existing laws that often result in grant of bail to repeat offenders and ensuring security of tenure of police officers, it has emerged.

These points were shared with Dawn by current and former police officers, independent analysts and experts who conceded that controlling street crime in the provincial capital was a ‘big challenge’ particularly in view of the current economic situation in the country.

However, they believe that with the implementation of certain measures, the crime rate “can be reduced within the next three months”.

A serving police officer, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that police needed technical support in the shape of ‘safe city project’ wherein CCTV cameras were required at all major intersections and crowded places like markets and thoroughfares.

The officer said CCTV cameras with facial recognition features were a must to control crime in big cities like Karachi. It should be supported by a motorcycle patrolling on the patterns of ‘Dolphin Force’ in Lahore.

Activity and movement of street criminals if viewed and recorded on CCTV can be used in mobilising police against them through motorcycle teams in areas of high crime rate, he added.

The officer said that police stations of Karachi could be easily divided into categories of ‘high, average and normal’ crime rates.

Traditionally senior and experienced SHOs were used to be posted in police stations of high crime areas. “Lately, this practice has been ‘given up’ due to exigencies like political interest and monetary return associated with land-grabbing, smuggling of goods, running of vice dens by vested interests. Similar is the case with posting of senior officers.”

Crime data and profiling of criminals

The officer said ‘crime burking’ is common at police stations of Karachi, which is a practice of turning away complainants without registering their complaints.

On the other hand, with no hope for return of snatched valuables, a number of victims have stopped reporting crime to police.

Keeping this in view, the figures, which are available with police and the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), are not more than 25per cent of actual crimes taking place in the city, he said.

“In the absence of a complainant, it becomes very difficult to present a mugger in court and get him convicted,” he said, adding that street criminals managed to get bail because of such flaws in investigation.

Talking about the network of buyers of snatched valuables, he said street criminals easily sell the snatched items to these buyers and get quick bucks.

“Police should focus on such activities and disrupt this trade which is going on freely across Karachi,” he said.

The officer added that the crime rate in Lahore was higher than Karachi. But it was because of the police’s persuasion to register FIRs there. Besides, recovery of looted valuables encouraged citizens in Lahore to register FIRs, he added.

‘Technology is a must to combat crime’

Former CPLC chief Jameel Yusuf said that criminals killed citizens “just to spread fear so that no one would offer resistance and they could easily rob citizens”.

He believed that “combating crime in today’s economic depression has become a science”, which requires dedication, commitment and accountability. It needs IT trained young people in police force, he added.

They should be trained to detect crime patterns within a week and then go after these trigger-happy delinquents.

He believed that all over the world, the police were not seen on roads. He said in the UK, police asked citizens to ‘watch your goods’. If such advice is given by the police, it may trigger hue and cry.

He said they had ‘solved’ crimes mostly through use of technology. He recalled that a targeted killing in Dubai by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was solved within 24 hours through checking at the airport and use of technology.

Mr Yusuf pointed out that the CPLC had made ‘crime patterns’, which must be utilised by police for patrolling at particular time and place and if need be, deployment policemen in plain clothes could be ensured.

He also proposed that bail for repeat offenders should be in cash only to make it difficult for third time offenders to get bail. For this purpose, the lawmakers should discuss and pass a bill to make necessary amendments to existing laws.

Since most people put up resistance to save their precious mobile phones, the former CPLC chief opined that cellular companies should provide ‘insured’ cell phones like they have been doing in other countries.

In case of theft/snatching of a cell phone, the cell phone company would block it through relevant code and would also replace it as being insured, he added.

Security of tenure suggested

Former IGP Sindh Kaleem Imam said that street crime was increasing across the country with intensity and it was rightly ‘highlighted’ in Karachi because the city has vibrant civil society, media and industry.

He said that ‘setting house in order’, ‘improving governance,’ giving geo-fencing and tracking facilities to police, installing safe city and posting of officers from SHOs to DIG level without extraneous interference with no extra-judicial measures would help to control crime in the city.

He said there was a ‘mass urbanisation’ in Karachi where people come for jobs, opportunities and some of them for committing crimes, but there was no proper registration. In contrast, it was not easy to get a house on rent in Islamabad.

Population was increasing rapidly and all systems of civic facilities, transport, health, and rescue have collapsed, he added. “We are not heading towards a crisis but we are already in the middle of the crisis.”

Regarding police role, he said that Karachi police chief Imran Yaqoob Minhas and IG-Sindh Ghulam Nabi Memon should be given tenure posting with complete operational autonomy, resources and powers of transfer/posting from SHOs to DIG level to perform effectively.

He said apart from posting on merit with fixed tenure, a surveillance system should be enforced with implementation of ‘safe city’ and there should be no ‘politics’ as to whom the contract should be given. Special courts should be set up for speedy trials of street criminals, he added.

He said in Karachi, heavy arms should not be given to policemen. Those on patrolling and pickets should be given small weapons/pistols and heavy weapons should be given to the rapid response force only, he said.

The former IG also proposed conducting targeted raids on businesses suspected of dealing with stolen/snatched goods or supporting criminal activities.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2024

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