Could it be inflation?

August 23, 2020

Looking at the factors behind the increasing crime rate in the city

If official data is to go by, there’s been a surge in incidents of crime in the provincial metropolis, during the first half of 2020. And, to think that it happened despite Lahore being under a lockdown for most of this period.

As many as 63,324 cases were lodged with the city police during the first five months of the year. According to details, between January and May this year, 148 people lost their lives in 1,387 isolated incidents of mugging. Sixteen of them were said to have been killed because they had put up resistance. In comparison, last year’s tally of such incidents during the same months was 1,075 while five people had been reported as killed.

Unfortunately, June and July have only been worse this year, as Lahore saw a spike in street crime. The Police Department, civil society and the lawyers’ community have conflicting opinions on the factors responsible for the increasing crime rate in the city. Some police officers call it a natural consequence of poverty and rising inflation, while others hold the inefficient and ineffective criminal justice system responsible for the situation.

Yet there are those in the Police Department who would attribute, albeit privately, the spike in crime to an “internal weakness in the chain of command.” A superintendent of police (SP) tells TNS, on condition of anonymity: “As per rules, a senior police officer, of the rank of an Additional IG, is appointed the CCPO. Under his supervision, three DIGs work in professional harmony. Currently, a senior DIG is the Lahore CCPO. This has pressured the chain of command in the department.

“In other words, it’s a management issue,” he says.

The SP also contends that there is “a positive connection between unemployment and crime. Often when we investigate a case of robbery or snatching at gunpoint, it transpires that the accused committed the crime due to extreme poverty or unemployment. Obviously, when there are fewer legitimate means to earn your livelihood, people will be forced to look elsewhere.

“The current surge in crime rate is thanks to the period of economic uncertainty that the country is experiencing.”

He says the government should intervene at the earliest and do something about inflation and unemployment. “The state must work out a policy whereby it can bind the businesses to not fire their employees due to a lockdown.”

Between January and May this year, 148 people lost their lives in 1,387 isolated incidents of mugging. Sixteen of them were said to have been killed because they had put up resistance. In comparison, last year’s tally of incidents during the same months was 1,075 while five people had been reported as killed.

He insists that if the authorities fail to come up with a comprehensive policy, the repercussions would be fatal for the society at large.

Naheed Baig, a lawyer and social activist, is also of the view that poverty and destitution have increased in the society and have caused a surge in crime rate. “The lack of effective policing and flaws in police investigation are also reasons why the criminals often manage acquittal from the courts,” she says.

Shahzada Sultan, the Investigation DIG, however, does not agree that poverty is a major reason for the recent increase in crime rate in the city. “Poverty may be just one of the factors,” he says. “Inequality, lack of opportunity, and impunity are equally important factors.

“Of course, you can’t factor out [poverty]; this is one of our long-standing issues.”

When asked as to why things are getting out of control, Sultan says, “The entire criminal justice system has failed us. Period. That’s why the lawbreakers have become fearless. The law-abiding citizens are intimidated on a daily basis.”

The criminal justice system, he says, consists of four main components — the police, prosecution, courts, and jails. “Though the Police Department has many drawbacks, the major fault lies with the prosecution and the courts. The people’s trust [in the criminal justice system] is shaken when they see that even after the police have apprehended the criminal and the courts have sentenced him, he manages to get bail and goes about like a free man.

“The Police Department has many drawbacks, but the major problem is with the prosecution and courts.”

“As for criminals, it’s almost a routine — they know they can buy freedom for themselves with the millions they’ve made. This way they aren’t deterred to commit a crime the next time.”

The other view

Operations DIG Ashfaq Ahmed Khan has a different view. He declares that the law-and-order situation “is under control.” His argument: “The current year’s crime rate is the same as it was in these months last year!”

He claims that the law-and-order situation has improved significantly since he assumed charge. “We should not forget that as the city’s population increases, the incidents of crime increase correspondingly. It’s a fact that Lahore’s population is rising at the rate of 3 percent annually. Also, the number of migrants from outside Lahore has gone up. If you correlate the figures of incidents of crime with the rising number of the city’s population, you will definitely notice that things are normal and there is no need to panic.”

In response to a query, Khan says, “We don’t believe in concealing a crime; we encourage free registration of FIRs. Had our predecessors too done the same, the situation would have been better.”


The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at  [email protected]

Could it be inflation?: Looking at the factors behind the increasing crime rate in Lahore