Panic runs rife in at least 13 villages in Sharankhola and Morrelganj upazilas of Bagerhat and the villagers there are spending sleepless nights to guard properties and lives following a recent spate of crimes including robbery, abduction and theft.
In a span of 11 days in March alone, four different organised crimes took place in four villages in the upazilas, causing a wave of panic in surrounding areas.
The villagers said they were living in fear as most of the criminals still remain at large, while police and local administration are failing to provide necessary protection for them.
Sharankhola's Dhansagar resident Samir Kumar Nandi, a school teacher, said almost all his valuables were stolen last year and just last month, there was an armed robbery at one of his neighbours' houses.
Witnessing no improvement in the situation or action from law enforcers, Samir set up a bench at the entrance of his own house to guard his property during night time.
“I used to go to sleep around 9:00pm. But now, I can't sleep till at least 3:00am... It isn't difficult to say that I'm in a state of panic now,” Samir also said.
On March 2, a gang looted a house in the upazila's Dhansagar union. Only six days apart, valuables from eight houses in Nalbunia of the same upazila were stolen on just one night.
Then on March 11, criminals abducted a two-and-a-half months old infant for ransom while the parents were sleeping next to the child in their house in Bisharighata of Morrelganj.
Two days later, on March 13, a group of robbers looted two houses at Kuthibari of Morrelganj after rendering dwellers of the houses senseless by using some form of anaesthetic spray.
The Daily Star during visits to the area found that residents of Baniakhali, Badhal, Rajapur and Bandakata in Sharankhola; and Gulishakhali, Kathaltola, Bhaijora, Kalikabari and Amtoli in Morrelganj also started to guard their own houses at night following the rise in theft, robbery and other crimes in neighbouring areas.
Mohammad Shoaib, a resident of Kalikabari where a series of theft incidents took place last year, said residents in all villages in both Sharankhola and Morrelganj and beyond are now panic-stricken.
Asaduzzaman Swapan, panel chairman of Dhansagar union in Sharankhola, told this correspondent that thieves also attempted to steal from his house last month.
Over the past 30 days, there had been only six or seven arrests, which is not enough, considering the number of offenses that are taking place in the upazila, he said, adding, “If they [criminals] are not arrested, they can break into anyone's house any time.”
Contacted, Sharankhola Police Station OC Dilip Kumar Sarkar said they beefed up patrolling in the area and already arrested some of the criminals involved in robberies.
KM Azizul Islam, OC of Morrelganj Police Station, said, “We are conducting raids to arrest the criminals, particularly the thieves.”
However, Riazul Islam, an additional superintendent of police in Bagerhat, said since Bagerhat is a large district with many remote villages, their logistics limitations do not allow them to increase patrolling immediately.
Dhansagar Union Parishad Chairman Mainul Hossain Tipu claimed that last month he deployed nine chowkidars (security guards) to patrol areas in his union.
Our Bagrerhat correspondent Partha Chakrabotty and staff correspondent Abdullah Al Nayeem contributed to the story.