Published: Friday, May 17, 2013

Crime

MUGGING ON THE RISE

Photo: Prabir Das

Photo: Prabir Das

Yasmin (not her real name), like every weekday set out very early in the morning for the office bus. She was walking towards her bus stop in Dhanmondi. A white car sped by her and stopped a few yards away. She didn’t notice this at all until the car made a u-turn and blocked her way. Two young men stepped out and one of them shouted in the open, “If anyone approaches us, we’ll shoot you all.” There were a few people on the road, mostly for morning walks and returnees from morning prayers, guards at the ground floors of apartments – all squeezed to different corners.

Wielding a large machete, the taller one of the muggers approached Yasmin and held the weapon to her neck. Helpless and in shock, she didn’t make a sound while they snatched her handbag containing valuables and some necessary papers. The two young criminals warned their victim again not to make a sound while getting back to their car, leaving hurriedly.

“I just realised no one comes to help when things like this happen,” she says. She refers to a similar incident in the same neighbourhood that four families from four different apartments witnessed but no one tried to help or intervene. When Yasmin went to the police to file a general diary, the police insisted to note her items as ‘lost’ rather than ‘mugged’ without a clear explanation.

City dwellers have already fallen victim to numerous mugging traps, ranging from plain hijack using lethal weapons to using sedatives in edibles, done by miscreants known as the Oggyan party. The mixture of menthol ointment with red chilli powder rubbed into the victim’s eyes proved very effective, hence evolved the name Molom party for the criminals who do this. Using black taxi cabs, snatching bags from rickshaws, even from within car windows are among other cunning moves.

The muggers seem to have become smarter in inventing new techniques to dupe their victims. What is new – a band of muggers are using expensive, standard cars for their heinous crimes, a camouflage that helps them hide their true identities. Despite police patrols and check posts all over Dhanmondi, several incidents of mugging using a car have been reported in and around this area.

A senior official of Rab-2 admitted the rise, particularly in Dhanmondi. “The gang of muggers using cars are particularly active around Dhanmondi-Kalabagan-Mirpur road area and between Uttara and Gazipur,” he says.

He informs of even dreadful reports, “We’re more concerned about these muggers using cars, that they often abduct individuals if they find debit cards and take them to the booth to instantly draw cash for them. Reports say they often harass victims inside the car if they are women and take their photos, threatening to upload them on the internet. What is worse, they sometimes call up the victim’s parents, close relatives and want them to immediately send money through bkash through mobile phones.”

The Rab official highly recommends the bkash authority to take this into account and invent ways to keep track of individuals who use their service.

Asked about the measures taken against these criminals, the Rab official says Rab-1, 2 and 4 have been more vigilant in their designated areas. “We are yet to trace particulars of this gang. Plainclothes officers have been deployed to gather information about these miscreants,” he says.

On finding debit cards with a victim, the muggers using cars may take them to ATM booths to instantly draw cash. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

On finding debit cards with a victim, the muggers using cars may take them to ATM booths to instantly draw cash. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) crime statistics do not record mugging or hijacking as a single item but it records incidents of Oggyan and Molom parties on their official website. According to the available data, the reported average rate of these two incidents in the city is on the rise so far this year, in contrast to the previous two years. The monthly average of total reported incidents of mugging (combined) was 3.25 in 2011, 2.63 in 2012 and 4.67 between January and March this year.

A more comprehensive and detailed crime statistics on the official website of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) gives a better picture. Records by Rab-1, 2, 3, 4 and 10, the five battalions that cover the capital, show mugging has been on the decline throughout the city. However, Dhanmondi falls under the areas where mugging has increased. The designated areas for Rab-2 are Dhanmondi, Hazaribagh, New Market, Mohammadpur, Adabor, Tejgaon & Tejgaon Industrial area. The stats show that reports of mugging in these areas have increased. In these areas, a monthly average of six incidents of hijacking was reported between January to March this year in contrast to the monthly average of 3.9 and 3.8 in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

In reality, incidents of mugging should be three to four folds more as many incidents go unrecorded.

Laura Qayyum (not her real name) stays close to Satmasjid road. She and her husband were getting home on a Friday night in April. As they stepped out of their car within a stone’s throw of their home, a man appeared at the scene and said, albeit theatrically, “We’re dacoits, we’re here to loot.” The mugger threatened the guard of the house and another family present there, comprising six people saying, “Go into the house or we’ll shoot.”

Laura observed that the muggers got there in a car, probably a silver Allion or Premio. “He pulled the gold bangles from my wrist and kept frisking my neck for more gold. My husband asked him to return our important cards, which the mugger did but eventually ended up taking everything. And he brandished a gun, which, I later realised, was fake,” she recalls.

“Within minutes, he took everything from us while two of his cronies were mugging the other family, “We’ll shoot if you fuss,” he kept saying.” The matter then diffused in a split second as the men quickly moved towards their car and vroomed away, she recalls.

Laura recounts that they went to the police and lodged a general diary. “We just mentioned that our things got ‘lost’ because the other family that also got mugged advised that mentioning ‘mugging’ may invite more trouble,” she says. The other family advised them that if they mention mugging, the police will come for routine visits which may become tiring with little chance of recovering the mugged items.

With such incidents on the rise and the criminals becoming more and more aggressive, law enforcers must reorganise their strategies and beef up vigil in the crime-prone areas, particularly in Dhanmondi where a surge of such incidents has been reported recently. For the last few months, the law enforcers have been busy in tackling various political unrests but this cannot come in the way to ensuring public safety. And the public must be aware of these cases and make sure they have taken every precaution they can think of to avert these untoward incidents.