A Reuters file photo of Empress Market, Karachi.

Crime takes a break for coronavirus in Karachi

Karachi’s crime rate takes a plunge as lockdown keeps people at home, police on the prowl & criminals in the woodwork

Razzak Abro April 26, 2020
KARACHI: Where it is still unclear how effective the city-wide lockdown has been in controlling the spread of the coronavirus, it appears Karachi’s crime rate has taken a dramatic plunge following the order.

A considerable decline has been observed in the number of armed robberies, street crimes and road accidents over the last 30 days of the lockdown; creating a sense of peace in the most difficult of times.

According to sources, the drop in the crime rate is attributed to the increased vigilance of law-enforcement agencies and the strict measures imposed to control the movement of citizens amid the contagion’s spread.

On the other hand, citizens have also remained apprehensive about stepping outdoors during the ballooning threat of Covid-19, which too has kept them out of harm’s way.

Per official statistics for March 23 to April 19, a total of 541 incidents of mobile phone snatching were recorded at the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Karachi. This figure, compared to the data available for days prior to the lockdown, reveals a decrease of over 1,095 case in the last 28 days.

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Similarly, a significant decrease has also been recorded in the number of armed robberies taking place across the city during the same lockdown period. Per official figures, up to 306 incidents of the crime were reported in different areas of the city in the 28-day period prior to the lockdown. However, the data for the 28 days following the lockdown show a decrease of over 194 cases, reducing the count of armed robberies across the city to 112 incidents in total.

Adding to that, a noticeable drop has also been observed in the number of incidents of vehicle snatching during the same period. As per calculations of the Anti-Vehicle Lifting Cell (AVLC) Karachi, some 18 cars were snatched while 125 cars were stolen from various parts of the city during the 28 days before the lockdown. However, data reveals that ever since the lockdown only a single car-snatching incident has been recorded with AVLC, while the number of stolen cars has come down to 38 in the days after the lockdown.

A similar trend recorded for incidents of motorcycle snatching reveals that while some over 173 incidents of motorcycle snatching and over 2,399 incidents of motorcycle robbery were reported across the city 28 days prior to the lockdown, the number has significantly plummeted to 63 and 1,577 respectively for the 28 days after the lockdown.

Furthermore, a reduction of approximately 50 per cent has also been observed in the number of fatalities in road accidents during the lockdown period. Per official statistics, while some 16 people were reported to have lost their lives in road accidents taking place across the city during the 28 days before the lockdown, the number of fatalities has been reduced to nine during the same period since the lockdown.

According to Karachi AIG Ghulam Nabi Memon, the reduction in crime rate is attributed to the deployment of maximum security personnel and greater utilisation of resources like manpower and transport across the city. “It has significantly improved the police response and criminals now find it more difficult to commit crime,” claimed Memon.

On the other hand, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Rabita Committee member Faisal Sabzwari believes that multiple factors have contributed to the decrease in the city’s crime rate. “On one side, it is the increased vigilance of the police which has kept criminals in the woodworks, but it is also the limited moment of the people and the ban on inter-city transport which has kept citizens out of harm’s way during the lockdown,” commented the politician.

Speaking in the same vein, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Sharmila Farooqi also said that measures like the ban on pillion riding and closure of markets are some of the factors responsible for curbing the city’s crime rate, along with the increased efforts of the law-making agencies.

“However, Karachi had also seen a remarkable drop in crime and criminal activities in the days prior to the lockdown, due to the efforts of the provincial government,” she claimed.

As per Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) Member of Provincial Assembly Haleem Adil Shaikh, although measures of the law enforcement agencies and limited movement of the people have contributed to the decrease in crime rate, there is also a third reason.

“It is not just the people who have limited their moment but also the criminals. They too harbour the same fear of the coronavirus as anyone else, which is why they have preferred staying in the woodworks and out of trouble while the virus remains an evident threat,” Shaikh told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2020.


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