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February 13, 2015

Lahore police humbled by carjackers


February 13, 2015

The Investigation Wings of Lahore police seem to have succumbed to organized gangs of car and bike snatchers allegedly backed by certain influential segments of society which resulted into the loss of vehicles worth over Rs 1 billion during the last year.
The official data available with The News shows that more than 6,000 expensive cars, motorbikes and other vehicles were either taken away at gunpoint from citizens or lifted from outside houses and parking areas in six divisions of Lahore police. The performance of the Investigation Wings can further be judged from the backlog of untraced cases of vehicle theft pending for many years.
Despite the fact that three major units of Lahore police —— Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Anti-Vehicles Lifting Staff (AVLS), Anti-Motorcycles Lifting Staff (AMLS) and Investigation Wings of respective police stations have been working against car/bike snatcher/lifter gangs, there is no respite to Lahorites who are losing their vehicles on a daily basis. The investigators have badly failed to break major networks of vehicle snatchers’ handlers as their focus is only to show performance to their bosses by arresting local members of the gangs. The snatchers or lifters are mostly chosen from local areas whose job is only to snatch and hand over the vehicle to main culprits called receivers against petty cash.
Soon after taking over, Capital City Police Officer Amin Wains gave AVLS and AMLS under the command of SP Mujahid Squad to make their performance better but to no avail.
The command of AVLS and AMLS has once again been given to the SSP Investigation and the latter needs time to restructure the force instead of focusing on busting the local gangs.
According to the data, Saddar and Iqbal Town divisions topped with over 2,100 reported cases of vehicle theft and snatching. Model Town and Cantt divisions followed with over 2,050 reported incidents of car and bike snatching/lifting. The City and

Civil Lines divisions remained third with 1,900 reported incidents.
Currently, an organized gang has been operating in Saddar Division in a very sophisticated way. The handlers of the gang are either in Mardan or in Southern Punjab, the investigators claim. They hire local snatchers who operate in an 800cc local or imported car.
Three to four members of the gang roam about different areas and target a car in broad daylight. They even take away cars at gunpoint from overcrowded places like Allah Hu Chowk in Johar Town. Two members of the gang keep on sitting in their car while two others take away the targeted car at gunpoint. They don’t leave the car owner at the crime scene rather take him/her along with them. They are young and trained as they use jammers to disconnect trackers.
They roam about the city for some time and then take the car towards Bhai Pheru or Phoolnagar in Kasur or in Okara and drop the car owner by ensuring that the victim has some cash to travel back home. The same modus operandi was used in the incidents occurred with Ali Jawwad in Township, Rashid in Chung and Naeem in Quaid-e-Azam, Industrial Area.
The complainants claim that as they got cases registered in the respective police stations, a group of lawyers became active to save the culprits. In case of arrests, they say, the lawyers put in their best to produce the accused by sending bailiff to the police stations or by moving to the high court for pre-arrest bails.
A member of the gang, Imran, was caught red-handed in a case No 326/14 registered at Sundar police station. He was produced before the Lahore High Court through a bailiff on the very next day of his arrest and he was granted the bail. Since then, police could not arrest him as he has reportedly flown to Dubai. Another member of the same gang, Mandi O’d, was arrested and sent to judicial remand without any breakthrough against his handlers. Another victim, Sajjad Mughal, was also robbed of his car on the same pattern in the Johar Town police limits on Sept 21, 2009. The police have yet to trace the culprits. The complainant says d that most of the snatched cars are taken to Kasur and police don’t bother to comb the area. He alleges that some politicians and lawyers are supporting such gangs but police are not devising strategy to break the nexus. He says Johar Town police had arrested eight people involved in the car snatching incidents but they were released within a day due to reasons best known to the commanders of Lahore police.
Interestingly, there is no coordinated effort to interrogate the arrested people, as investigation officers of different cases wait for their turn to question the accused. During this process, the accused becomes aware of typical investigation of police and learn how to remain tight-lipped.
The senior officers of AVLS and AMLS confirm that it is almost impossible for them to break the network of car snatchers’ handlers. They say that most handlers belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern part of Punjab as vehicles were dispatched to Mianwali, Rajanpur, Landi Kotal, Mardan, Chishtian and Bahawalnagar. The investigators admit their inability to raid their hideouts, as the criminals are so powerful that they even don’t fear making policemen hostage. They say that the car jackers don’t use main routes to take cars, adding only in Saddar Division there are 14 routes to safely escape from the city unchecked.
Sources say that the Lahore CCPO will take up the issue with his counterpart in Peshawar for the arrest of proclaimed offenders and those wanted in car snatching. They claim the culprits are released by the courts despite their criminal record and they start committing crimes again.
A senior police officer, requesting anonymity, says that there is a dire need to conduct analytical report of the car-snatching incidents. He says that the focus should be on the time, car model, and modus operandi and crime-hit areas. He says according to his information car jackers are targeting Honda cars of 2005-06 model and Toyota Corolla of 2004 model. He admits the fact that the police are unable to break the network of handlers and says that the police should focus on the preventive side by ensuring the indictment of snatchers and their handlers and by conducting a massive patrolling in the crime-hit areas. To a question, he says the political patronage of car snatchers’ handlers is rare in Punjab while there are some instances in KPK. To another query, he says that a car jacker bribes law enforcers as he keeps Rs 300,000 to 400,000 in his pocket to win freedom.
When contacted, SSP Investigations Ayyaz Saleem said that there was much to do to bust the gangs of car snatchers’ handlers, adding that car snatching/lifting was an organized crime committed by trained rackets. He said it was easy to arrest car thieves and carriers but it was tough to reach the receivers of vehicles, who dispose of cars/bikes in certain markets. He said that there was a dire need to restructure the AVLS on the pattern of the CLC in Karachi so that the investigation of such cases could be conducted solely by the AVLS/AMLS investigators. He went on to say that he was also focusing on the modern techniques for the prevention and detection of such cases by dividing police stations into different divisions.
To a question, the SSP said that they were going to prepare separate lists of handlers, carriers and thieves to ensure proper action against them. About legal lacunae, he said that he would try to get some amendments done to the law to ensure stringent action against vehicle snatchers as in the existing laws they easily get bails. About the arrests and recovery of vehicles, he said that they had recovered dozens of stolen cars and arrested a number of gang members.

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