KARACHI: It was noon on a slow Sunday in Federal B Area when Mohammad Saud heard his mother exclaim that someone had stolen his brand new car’s stereo system. He rushed outside onto the street and saw the car door swinging open, the front window broken. The music system was missing.
“The issue was not that it had been stolen,” pointed out Saud. “What was surprising was the boldness of the thieves – we had been out all night arguing with the police and the neighbourhood watchman after a similar attempt at theft had failed.” He and his brother Masroor had chased off two men trying to break into the car Saturday night.
“We went to sleep in the morning, having no clue that the thieves would return even in broad daylight,” he said.
Over the past few years, citizens have watched helplessly as theft of automobiles and their spare parts is on the rise in the city. From side-view mirrors, toolkits and carburettors to music players and batteries, opportunists strike at will to steal these accessories from vehicles. These parts are then sold at throwaway prices to scrap dealers and retailers of spare parts in Saddar, Ayesha Manzil, FB Area and Godhara. Chances are you will likely end up buying your own stolen battery or side-view mirrors at these places.
Besides automatic side-view mirrors, that have become a favourite among thieves, the theft of batteries from vehicles has become increasingly common over the last couple of years. One victim was taken by surprise in the morning when he sat in his car only to find that the ignition wasn’t working. “When I opened the bonnet, I found the battery missing,” he explained incredulously. What surprised me most was their dexterity as they managed to switch off the alarm and take the battery out of the bonnet.” Aziz was using the high-quality dry battery, which costs twice as much as a regular liquid battery. His mechanic has now advised him to use a cheap battery because of increased theft.
Muhammad Farhan Khan, a car dealer, says that the increase in demand for batteries can be associated with the increase in trade of small generators and UPS systems. “Even the scavenger children who collect garbage in streets don’t let go of any chance of stealing these batteries,” said Khan, adding that batteries from smaller cars batteries are stolen more easily. They sell the batteries to scrap dealers at nominal prices from Rs500 to Rs1,000.
Spare parts dealers at Saddar Plaza denied reports of the sale of stolen gadgets in the market. “Good and evil exist in every business but here every dealer cares about their reputation in the market and try to stay away from dirty business,” said Adil, a spare parts dealer at Saddar plaza. “If someone is doing black business, he will have his own sources and will do it secretly. As far as batteries are concerned, they are used in hundreds of appliances and the thieves can sell it anywhere.”
Music systems, carburettors, tool-kits and wheels are stolen from vehicles and the police and Anti-Car Lifting Cell (ACLC) of the police department have no records of the number of such cases, because people normally do not register FIRs.
“You and I don’t go to the police station for such cases, thinking that some drug addict living on the nearby streets will have done it,” said an officer of ACLC, seeking anonymity. The officer said that in most cases, it is the street children and the garbage collectors who steal mirrors, batteries, fans and music system by breaking the front view glass. “We arrested two children in Gulshan-e-Iqbal trying to steal a music system. We got the CCTV camera footage and when they came back a few days ago, we arrested them. They had stolen items from four cars and had sold that to scrap dealers.”
Commenting on the police role, he said that they can’t raid shops at Plaza without solid proof as the market leaders would make it an issue and will allege the police of taking bribes.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2014.