Muggers turn more brutal
Zakir Hossain was walking back home when four people stopped him at the capital's Hazaribagh around 8:30pm on Friday. At knife point, they asked him to hand over cash and valuables. As he wouldn't give in, the muggers stabbed him and took away Tk 20,000.
Zakir, who is taking a vocational training course at Mirpur, was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) with injuries to his back and left hand.
This is one of the numerous incidents of mugging -- dangerous and often fatal -- that are taking place in Dhaka. In many cases, organised gangs not only apply new tactics to rob people but also turn brutal as they rule the city streets at night.
In another incident on Friday, criminals in a car attempted to snatch Helena Begum's handbag in Dhanmondi, dragging her 200 yards. Eventually, she was crushed to death under the wheels.
And what happened on December 18 would be anyone's worst nightmare -- a mother lost her child. A woman's six-month-old baby boy fell off her lap and died as a mugger tried to snatch her purse while she was on a moving rickshaw in Dhaka's Doyaganj area.
There is now a growing call for more police vigilance as these incidents, when reported in the media, naturally cause panic among city dwellers.
Anjuman Ara begum, a schoolteacher of Azimpur area in the capital, used to go out around 7:00am every day, but now she starts her day after 8:30am, learning that mugging is on the rise in the city.
Muggers, many roaming around on private cars, bikes and microbuses, prey on people usually from midnight to morning taking advantage of lax police patrol in city streets.
Those coming from outside the capital -- passengers of buses, launches and trains -- are the most common targets of these gangs.
According to sources, at least two dozen mugger groups are active across the capital. They prowl around mainly on Ring Road of Mohammadpur, Kalyanpur, Gabtoli to Mirpur-1, Agargaon link road, Khilkhet to Airport Road, Kalshi Road, Mouchak to Moghbazar, Sadarghat to Sutrapur, Sadarghat to Doyaganj, Wari, Uttara to Abdullahpur, Zigatola to Rayerbazar, Mirpur Beribadh, Gulistan to Paltan, Saarc Fountain to Ramna Park, Jatrabari and Shyampur.
The gangs also target CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers to take away their vehicles. Interestingly, they often sell the same three-wheelers to the owners at reduced prices.
Detectives on January 23, arrested Liton, 45, and Jashim, 28, from the capital's Mirpur area for killing auto-rickshaw driver Iskendar Ali Howlader, 40, and snatching his auto-rickshaw from Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area on January 13.
Even policemen are not safe from them.
On July 22, 2017, detectives arrested Shah Alam alias Alam alias Budda from Tongi over the killing of Savar Highway Circle ASP Mizanur Rahman Talukder on June 21 that year.
His gang picked up Mizanur on a private car for mugging but decided to kill him after realising that he was a senior police official, said police.
Besides, two police officials were stabbed by muggers when they tried to catch members of a gang in Hazaribagh's Beribadh area of Dhaka.
Most victims don't file cases to avoid hassles. They prefer to remain silent also because filing of cases hardly brings results.
Zakir's family also feels like them.
“We don't want to face any more harassment,” his father Abdur Rauf said. "I am happy that my son's life has been saved."
Some claim to have filed general diary to recover their important documents, while some allege police showed reluctance to register cases.
Milon Ahmed, a trader of Banglamotor area, said snatchers took away three android cell phones and Tk 500 from him and his friend near Ramna Park on December 24.
“We filed a case with Ramna Police Station but yet to get any result,” he told The Daily Star.
In some cases, muggers were arrested but got acquittal from court.
The Police Headquarters database shows judgments in 213 cases in connection with acts of mugging involving 589 accused were delivered from January to September, 2017. Only 88 accused were punished in 41 cases.
Devdas Bhattacharya, DMP's additional commissioner, said they found many victims unwilling to file cases as they don’t want to go through legal process. But police can help only after cases are filed.
FIGURES VS REALITY
Police claim that mugging in the city is on the decline.
The Police Headquarters database shows that 1,155 cases were filed for mugging in 2014, 933 in 2015, 722 in 2016 and 657 in 2017.
“Mugging incidents are decreasing as in most cases, we have arrested the muggers and recovered looted valuables,” said Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of DMP.
DMP official Devdas claimed checking mugging is now their high priority. "We have been able to arrest muggers and solve the cases, but still the crime continues in the densely populated city,” he said.
Devdas said instruction has been issued to increase vigilance and patrolling.
Rights activist Nur Khan Liton expressed doubt over the police claim. “The reality is police are failing to prevent it,” he said, calling for improved pro-active role of law enforcers.