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— File Photo

After years of frustrating operations trying to catch car thieves, the police are now focusing on the “receivers”, middle men who deal in sale and purchase of stolen vehicles.

The police believe that the change in tactic will help recover a large number of stolen vehicles and decrease incidents of theft.

In a press conference last Thursday, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Bani Amin Khan announced that the Anti-Car Lifting Cell (ACLC) had been able to trace receivers across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and raids had been carried out to arrest the culprits from Batgram to Dera Ismail Khan.

The IGP said the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) and the ACLC were now under the supervision of “capable and well-reputed officers”.

Meanwhile, a police officer told Dawn that the new strategy of the ACLC was working and receivers had been forced to escape from their hometowns.

In the last one month, ACLC and CIA have arrested 113 persons for their alleged involvement in robberies, snatching, and vehicle lifting, and 29 cars, stolen items worth Rs3,700,000, two motorbikes, 23 pistols and gold ornaments have been recovered. “According to our record there are at least 19 receivers operating in KP. We raided their homes and hideouts, and they were forced to run away,” he said.

“Another good thing that has come about is that with the receivers on the run, they are no longer asking car-thieves to pick up vehicles, which has led to a decrease in auto-theft incidents reported in the twin cities,” he claimed.

The police officer added that earlier no serious effort had been made against the receivers because of corruption within the ACLC ranks.

The Islamabad police have alleged that receivers made agreements with the KP police, whereby they do not carry out any criminal activity in their area and in return are assured that the police would not take action against them. The receivers also shared profits earned by selling stolen cars with the KP police.

“Corrupt ACLC officers would alert receivers about the police raids, and they would escape in time,” the police officer added.

Last year, the Shalimar police traced and arrested a receiver, Jamshed Khan, and handed him to Dubgari police station in Peshawar till completion of legal process – obtaining transit remand – to bring him to Islamabad for further interrogation. But within hours, Jamshed Khan managed to escape from the Dubgari police station.

Similarly, Zazay Khan, another receiver, escaped from the custody of Peshawar police when he was arrested after numerous raids.

Unsurprisingly, part of the new strategy of ACLC is to go for raids without informing the local police, a requirement under the Criminal Procedure Code, an ACLC officer said.

“Once the raid has been carried out and the culprit arrested, we inform the KP police,” he said.

“The police are hoping that the arrest of the receivers will also unearth their links in different excise and taxation departments, who help forge registration books for the stolen vehicles,” the ACLC officer added.

The receivers also maintain records of stolen vehicles which they sell in the market, the officer said, adding: “We hope that we can recover these vehicles.”

Recently, the ACLC officials raided the house of a receiver but could not find him there. In response, the ACLC officials wanted to arrest his relatives and bring them to Islamabad to pressure the receiver to give himself up. But a senior police official objected to it. “The higher police officials have objected to taking things to such an extreme, and made it clear that relatives should not be arrested without legit proof of their involvement in the crime,” said the officer.