The robbers continued to expose the Islamabad Safe City Project after two individuals were robbed of Rs2.3 million at gunpoint in broad daylight in Sector I-8 in separate incidents.
Around two weeks ago, Islamabad-based journalist Ishtiaq Ahmed was intercepted by robbers in Sector I-8/1, who looted Rs0.8 million that he was carrying.
A week later, another resident of the federal capital, Athar Ejaz was robbed of Rs1.5 million on September 30 in the same vicinity.
The robbers managed to escape easily while using the main thoroughfares and through populated sectors. But the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed under the Safe City project have yet to help police trace the suspects.
The criminals usually remove the front registration plate to dodge the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras installed at 208 points across the federal capital.
“It is the duty of the police to ensure bikers have the front registration number plates installed at all times. How can they identify people wearing a helmet or a pillion rider with a face mask on during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) when wearing masks is mandatory,” said Mahmood, a perturbed resident of Sector I-8. He added that in such circumstances, the only reliable identification source remains the standard number plate.
The cameras installed under the Safe City project at different points across the city are also unable to give a clear picture of people even when they are close to the crime scene.
In this regard, Ahmed pointed out that the robbers who tailed him from Sector I-8 Markaz were seen waiting for him in a local parking lot, just a dozen feet away from a Safe City camera. However, the camera could not pick up their faces clean enough to recognise them.
“The incorrect placement of cameras in also an issue. Why don’t the authorities install cameras at the escape routes usually used by criminals to enter Rawalpindi or the rural areas?” asked Suleman, an employee of a private company in Sector I-8 Markaz.
Akbar Abbasi, another I-8 sector resident demanded of the police to permanently close down the shortcuts used by bikers by breaking road medians or removing concrete blocks which also keeps them from being caught on safe city cameras.
“The police placed concrete blocks to close the service road along Metro track at Faizabad. But the bikers managed to get away by slipping past the barricades. They violate the closure throughout the day but police deployed at check posts express a lack of concern, he criticised.
Arshad, the victim of a robbery which took place on September 9 in Sector G-9, demanded that the police to enforce the use of standardised number plates issued by the Excise Office which are only readable by the cameras.
“Most of the 125cc bikes – the conveyance usually used by the criminals too - are seen without a front or even both number plates. Such a huge investment on Safe City project is useless if the police don’t ensure the vehicles use the standard number plates,” he commented.
A senior officer of the capital’s police said the authorities were working over the second phase of Safe City Project cameras to enhance the coverage and fill plug the loopholes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2020.
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