Crime watch

Lahore’s ranking has improved from 138 to 174 in the World Crime Index. Does it fall in line with what exists on ground?

Crime watch

There’s some good news for Lahorites. According to the World Crime Index 2019, a ranking mechanism that measures a city’s vulnerability to crime, Lahore stands at number 174 in the list of 319 cities ranked for the purpose.

A positive development in this context is that the city has moved 36 steps down from the 138th position it had achieved last year. This means its ranking has increased (by 36 points) over the last six months. The survey-based ranking is done by the leading organisation twice a month and quoted extensively across the world.

Interestingly, the news that has been extensively referred to has evoked a mixed response from the general public. Some think the results are engineered in terms of the city police exaggerating their achievements and downplaying their failures, and hence manipulating the facts and figures in order to send out a positive (read false) image.

There are others who think there is a long way to go but also appreciate improvement in the law and order situation. They attribute this mainly to the tech- and intelligence-based policing introduced in the city over the past couple of years.

The question here is that if this news is to be believed, what are the factors and indications that support this claim and justify the ranking. Besides, it would be of interest to everybody to know about the process through which this ranking is done.

Arshad Bajwa, a management professional and data analyst, explains that there are organisations that filter surveys and analyse big data to obtain close-to-realistic results regarding different issues. The methods and processes involved are designed in a way that there is little chance of misrepresentation. "The World Crime Index is also worked out in the same way, and enjoys credibility among researchers."

The organisation working on the Index covers only the cities for which there are at least a certain number of contributors. A person can vote only once and is traced by the IP address he used. According to the parameters, the index is an estimation of overall level of crime in a given city or country. The survey is based on a set of questions that the visitor has to answer. These are related to the sense of security one has while walking in the street in daylight or during the night, a feeling of apprehensions about being mugged or robbed or harassed by anybody, etc.

The popular perception is that the ranking does not seem to translate into the reality on ground. Complaints about non-registration of criminal cases, non-cooperative attitude of policemen towards complainants, general efficiency of investigators when it comes to resolving crime etc., are very common. It is believed that due to these issues, there is a lack of cooperation between the police and the citizens who think of each other as adversaries and do not combat crime together.

So, the question remains as to what are the factors that led to an improvement in Lahore’s ranking on the World Crime Index.

B A Nasir, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), Lahore, attributes the improved ranking to an elaborate policing plan adopted by the Lahore Police in the last six or so months.

"Instead of getting tough with the staff, we looked at the root causes and tried to address them," he tells TNS. "For instance, we formed a crime control strategy in order to check crime effectively through meticulous data analytics. Under this strategy, the Lahore Police divided police stations in three categories: A, B and C, based on the prevalence of crime in those specific areas.

"Around 69 percent of the city’s crime takes place within the jurisdiction of 35 police stations, 23 percent in 25 police stations, and 8 percent in 24 police stations. On the basis of the Category A Police Station, the SHOs and staff are exempted from all security and law and order duties, and instructed to focus purely on crime control."

According to Nasir, through a detailed working on the city’s crime maps, "We’ve redefined crime beats and crime hotspots, and devised policing plans. Previously, the Lahore Police had 277 functional beats but now the number has been raised to 435, giving the concerned staff a clear and concise span of control with evenly rationalised workload.

"Three shifts have been introduced to relieve the policemen of extraordinary stress. If a policeman is made to work for 16 to 18 hours a day, you cannot expect him to be courteous. Even then they are punished if they misbehave."

Nasir agrees that "it is hard to get FIRs registered at times. For this reason, the Lahore Police has based its analysis on the record of certified calls made at 15. This is more reliable because the record of 15 calls cannot be manipulated."

He adds that there is a difference of opinion on the use of this data but the point is that evidence-based planning and policing should be done on the basis of truth, however harsh it may be. "Everything we’ve done is within the ambit of law, and there are no extrajudicial killings, fake recoveries, figure-fudging to show positive results. Had this been the case, a highly credible global organisation would not have improved the city’s ranking."

TNS talked to random citizens who said they were not comfortable visiting police stations but found it ok to deal with the policemen on the roads or at other public places. They largely endorsed the view that there is a decrease in incidents of street crime but weren’t willing to give full credit to police.

People like Sajid Malik, a sales manager, had a different opinion. He said that he felt safe stepping out of the house at night or in day time with a good lot of cash on him. He attributed his sense of safety to the multiple CCTV cameras that have been installed at different points on city roads, and to the increased presence of policemen at points with a bad history of particular crimes, as well as regular patrolling.

Malik also said that incidents of mobile snatching had decreased which could be due to the effective policy of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with regard to blocking stolen mobiles.

CCPO Nasir agrees with the fact that there are attitude problems with the police officials, but insists that steps are being taken to improve the situation. "We’re trying to improve the working conditions of the policemen and provide them with the facilities they didn’t have.

"As of today, 19 police stations of Lahore Police are housed in rented buildings. In order to ensure a decent work environment for the police force and to meet their future needs, Lahore Police has identified pieces of land where police stations and additional police lines shall be set up."

He also speaks of requesting the government to allocate land measuring 137 kanals at Harbanspura, 14 kanals at Raiwind, and 4 kanals at Kot Lakhpat for establishing three more police lines.

Other measures being taken include monitoring of habitual and active criminals, increasing the strength of police personnel to cater to the needs of the growing population, increasing the law and order spending per person, developing internal and external accountability mechanisms, rationalising workload on policemen, and so on.

Crime watch