From the Editor-in-Chief: Handling crime must be a serious priority

Enayetullah Khan
Saturday, March 5th, 2016
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There has been a spurt in crimes in the past month in our capital city of Dhaka. The figures that we have had — and they have appeared in newspapers — are worrying, like all reports of lawlessness. These figures we speak of come from police sources, which surely say something about conditions. But the bigger possibility is that the actual number could be much higher given that many citizens are generally unwilling to report to the law enforcers on the feeling that the police will not record their complaints or that by reporting the crimes they might only endanger their own lives as well as that of their families. Besides, many victims of crime have indeed come up with allegations that the police are reluctant to record their statements about the crimes they have fallen prey to. That disturbs us, without question.

 

If crimes going up in Dhaka is the reality, there is the other reality too, which is that they may well have gone up in other urban areas as well as in our rural regions. There are all the crimes committed in our villages, acts of lawlessness which by and large remain unreported in the national media. These crimes include murder, maiming, criminal acts over property-related issues, rape, abduction and even such obnoxious acts as the issuance of fatwa by local preachers who are audacious enough to take the law in their own hands and twist it to suit their purposes. Add to that the carefree manner in which the law is easily and freely tampered with by political party activists, especially by those belonging to or identifying with the ruling party. In these past few years, instances of mind-boggling crime, such as the killing of a journalist couple, the murder of seven men in Narayanganj, the abduction and killing of small boys, and more, have been pointers to the law enforcers’ inability to prevent such crimes or hunt down those who have committed them, at least in a large number of instances.

 

However, only blaming the police for this rise in crimes will not be enough. The reason is that the police force is at present too under-manned and under-equipped to zero in on criminal activities throughout the country. Additionally, the degree of professionalism we expect our police to demonstrate, in line with standards followed around the world, has not quite been achieved despite all the platitudes we have heard over the years. Recent spectacles of lynch mobs dealing with robbers or suspected robbers on the outskirts of Dhaka and in Narayanganj district are disturbing examples of the degree to which citizens have lost confidence in the ability of the law enforcers to handle crime. Obviously, lynch mobs are a bad sign for any state. To prevent a recurrence of such acts, the police must go out all the way to persuade citizens into believing that they can and will tackle crime whenever and wherever it occurs.

 

In towns and cities, police patrols must be increased. Of course, policemen are doing the right thing by stopping and checking motorbike riders and auto-rickshaws. But such checks must not become a harassment of citizens. Besides, there are other vehicles such as private cars, trucks and buses which many criminals use to get away and which too should be brought under the scanner.

 

Finally, there is a need to revitalise Village Defence Parties (VDPs) in the rural regions if tackling crime remains our priority.

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