Underreporting of FIRs aggravates Karachi’s crime crisis

Ali Ousat Staff Reporter

21st Oct, 2021. 05:51 pm
street crime in khi

KARACHI: It is a commonly held view in Pakistan that registering a first information report (FIR) when someone is looted by robbers or is the victim of some other street crime is an exercise in futility.

This perception is aided by the fact that many local police stations reportedly seem reluctant to register street crime cases, including those of robbery, and people convince themselves that it is futile to report such incidents.

“Usually, police officers ask us to register a katchi FIR, an entry only in daily register known as roznamcha,” commented Malik Mukhtar, who had been robbed a year ago in front of his home at North Nazimabad.

He added that “Since I believe there is no hope for my valuables to be returned, I am not interested in pursuing my case.”

Mukhtar, while narrating his ordeal, further said, “It was [during] winter when I took a motorcycle ride to office. The area which I live in falls under the jurisdiction of Shahrah-i-Noor Jehan police station. It was [a foggy] morning that compelled me to ride my two-wheeler slowly and just a few seconds after my ride started, I was intercepted by the robbers. They were wearing surgical face masks, like those worn for protection against Covid-19, and carried pistols in their hands. They demanded I hand over my valuables.”

Mukhtar added that when he offered resistance, the suspected robbers pushed the gun barrel on his forehead to threaten him. “I felt the chills and started shivering [after] which they suddenly deprived me of all my valuables. I reached the police station, where after long hours of wait, the police registered the katchi FIR. The police told me I would be informed if my cell phone was recovered. A year has passed and no one has called me for my valuables.”

In a similar case, Mohammad Zaman was robbed near Gurumandir area by armed suspects. He was deprived of his motorcycle, mobile phone and other valuables. Despite the trust deficit between police and citizens, Zaman approached local police fearing his motorcycle may be used in any unlawful activities.

“I have a contact in police department, so they registered my FIR,” he stated. “Believe me, the police department has ruined [my] daily routine. Every time, they call me to identify the suspects.”

He further said that we the residents of Karachi have lost all hope when it comes to getting an FIR registered. “Nothing will change after FIR is registered and police officials will proceed with their routine matters.”

Street crimes widely underreported

In Karachi, anecdotal evidence suggests hundreds of street crime incidents take place on a daily basis. Around 80 per cent of the crimes are never registered by the police.

An SHO at a local police station, who deals with several street crime incidents in the metropolis, on the condition of anonymity, told Bol News that crimes including sexual assault, gang rape, robbery, theft, kidnapping, snatching cash and looting of valuables from pedestrians and motorists often go unreported.

Mobile phone snatching and mugging is the most common crime in our city, he commented. “At least 50pc of Karachi’s male citizens have been mugged at some point in their lives,” he added.

What does the data say?

A week ago, the Citizens Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) released a report on the street crimes committed in Karachi during the first nine months of 2021.

The report revealed that 369 street crime victims had died while resisting robberies and 842 people had sustained injuries in similar crime incidents.

The CPLC report detailed that almost 38,000 motorcycles were stolen of which 3,187 were 125cc and 27,821 were 70cc two-wheelers respectively. The statistics in the report showed that 1,482 cars and 825 rickshaws had been stolen as well.

Additionally, 18,591 cell phones were snatched out of which only 1,300 had been recovered. As many as 20 extortion cases, 12 kidnappings for ransom, and a case of bank robbery had been reported in the port city during this period.

What do academics believe?

Professor Muddasir Hussain from Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University, Lyari pointed out that there were several questions on the issue of street crime. “Why are crime rates high in congested and poor areas? And why are only young and poor people involved in the crime? We also need to know why law enforcement agencies could not make any progress to reduce street crimes in the metropolis.”

Many social researchers believe that high rates of crime among the poor and young were due to poverty, he added. “Generally speaking, a lack of job opportunities made many of them criminals.”

The professor stated that the question to solve the street crime problem lies not only in stern action against these criminals but also in educating the youth against these crimes as well as providing them with adequate job opportunities.

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