It's a page out of Oliver Twist.
Only the focus is on a Fagin character who has been arrested for running a child burglary gang in city's Gulshan area with the help of two more associates.
The Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) wing under the Detective Branch of police came upon the gang's operations while investigating a burglary case in Gulshan.
Raihanul Abedin filed the case with Gulshan Police Station after a burglary at his house in Gulshan on July 29 during which thieves stole a laptop, three digital cameras and two cell phone sets.
As the Swat team followed the leads in the case, they came upon a scrap-metal dealer Billal, who along with his younger brother Shariful Islam and Ramzan Ali appear to be successfully running a group of young burglars whom they train to steal from households in Gulshan, Banani and Badda.
Gang leader Billal runs his scrap metal business in Gulshan Natunbazar and after the burglaries are completed, he sells the loot allegedly to shops in malls in Gulshan, Elephant Road and the stadium market.
The gang is very well organised, Swat found during its investigation. The youngsters are very professional-like in their work. After initial training, the boys are sent out in the guise of street urchins to identify quiet households in the area where committing a burglary would be easy. This they do by observing the targeted house for days on end before making their strike.
The boys, armed with iron rods, blades and other necessary equipment, then enter a house by cutting down grills on the windows or doors. Sometimes they work for days to cut down the iron bars on a window or door. Sometimes they simply jump over a boundary wall and enter the house through back doors when not locked.
They then sneak away with items, which are easily saleable in the market as electronic gadgets and the like.
The very early mornings and twilight are a favourite with these gangsters, the investigators said.
After the burglaries, the boys hand over the stolen goods to Ramzan and Billal who have connections with shop owners.
Swat suspects that Billal has a gang of 12 children though Ramzan after his arrest claimed they only have five boys.
Billal during interrogation denied running a gang. He said, “These boys don't work for us. We just buy goods from them at a lower price.”
He confessed that he suspected the boys were offering stolen goods at such low prices but the temptation to make some easy profit was the reason why he bought from them, reselling the same for a profit to shop owners.
Assistant Commissioner of Swat Mohammad Mashiur said, “The three men use child burglars as it is easy to carry out burglaries with children. We are also investigating which shopkeepers keep links with such gangs and regularly buy stolen goods from them.”
Unlike in Charles Dickens' famous story, the gang doesn't have to steal poor children and force them into this gang. There are plenty of abandoned urchins on the streets who are lured easily into the gang with the promise of regular food and boarding.
“I did not have a place to sleep at night, they gave me shelter and food so I did their work,” Mashiur Rahman quoted one of the two children they picked up as saying.
The other boy said his father abandoned his mother before his birth and he now hates his mother because of the life she leads on the street, so he was happy to work for Billal instead of staying with his mother.
Swat picked up two children working for Billal three days ago and sent them to a vagrant centre in the capital. They are now looking for the other gang members.
Meanwhile, based on confessional statements of the arrestees Swat recovered two projectors, four laptops, four cell phone sets of different companies, four digital cameras, two DVD players, an LCD monitor, and a cassette player from different places including Billal's scrap metal shop and the houses of the three men.
It's a page out of Oliver Twist.