Four types of crimes on the rise in Dhaka

Animesh Chandra Shaha and Shajahan Mia work at a textile factory. They withdrew Tk 4.8 million from the Uttara branch of Al-Arafah Islami Bank on the afternoon of 10 October. They then left for their office in the capital’s Banani by car. When their car was crossing the Elevated Expressway, another car signalled them to stop.

As they pulled over, 5-6 people, who claimed themselves as members of the Rapid Action Battalion, quickly got in their vehicle. Those people alleged they both carried illegal arms, handcuffed them and tied their mouths.

After that, the criminals robbed them of Tk 4.8 million, three mobile phones and a cheque book and then rode to 300 Feet Road. Police have arrested seven members of a robbery gang in this connection and recovered Tk 2.3 million so far.

News of people being robbed off on roads is heard often. Houses were also robbed at gunpoint. A gang stormed an apartment on the second floor of a building in the capital’s Banani on 27 June last year. They then tied the hands and legs of family members with rope and looted 30 bhori of gold and Tk 1.1 million.

Victim Ishtiaque Ahmed said, “6-7 robbers entered our house and vandalised the entire house in 20-30 minutes. All of them are aged 25-30 and two of them wore masks.”

Police data also found a rise in robberies in Dhaka. A review of data from Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) shows an upward trend in mugging, extortion, and kidnappings along with robbery from 2021 to 2023.

According to DMP, 21 lawsuits were filed over 'dacoity' in 2019 and 2020 each while 23 cases were lodged in 2021, 27 in 2022 and 34 cases were filed over Dacoity in 2023.

Section 391 of the Penal Code states “When five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt, amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding, is said to commit "dacoity".

Unlike dacoity, a robbery takes place when less than five people conjointly commit crimes as described in section 391 of the Penal Code. Robbery has been on the rise in Dhaka in the past three years. A total of 145 robbery cases, according to DMP, were filed in 2021 and 2022 each while 199 cases were registered in 2023. Police claimed a total of 4,461 people are involved in ‘dacoity’ and robbery in Dhaka.

Mugging, extortion and kidnapping

News of mugging is often heard in the capital with people losing lives.

A college student, Adnad Sayed alias Rakib, 18, was killed by muggers on the walkway on the east side of Sheikh Jamal Club playground in the capital’s Dhanmondi on the night of 16 July 2023.

A chicken trader from Karwan Bazar, Zakir Hossain, 43, and his son Jasim Uddin, 17, were stabbed by muggers in the Gulistan area in the dead of the night of 31 July that year. Four muggers riding two motorcycles came and stabbed them before stanching Tk 20,000 from them.

On the afternoon of that very day, muggers snatched mobile phones and money from a student, Emon Mia, 17, holding a knife to his throat in Zafrabad, Mohamdpur.

An analysis of police data shows 63 cases were lodged over mugging in Dhaka in 2021, and 103 cases in 2022 and 2023 each.

The DMP launched the Suspect Identification and Verification System (SIVS) in 2023 and built a database of criminals. A total of 1,737 people enlisted in the database for their involvement in mugging. The largest number of people involved in mugging robbery and kidnapping is from the police’s Tejgaon division.

DMP additional commissioner (crime and operations) Kh Mahid Uddin told Prothom Alo people’s living standards vary from area to area in the capital. The rich, for example, live in Gulshan while the lower middle-income people reside in Mohammadpur.

There are slums in Bosila and Beriband areas of Mohammadpur, and other areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Adabor and Sher-E-Bangla Nagar police stations, and floating and low-income people mostly live here, and a portion of them are involved in crime, he added.

Beriband of Mohammadpur is the entry point of Dhaka and several other districts, Mahid Uddin said adding that criminals can easily leave Dhaka after committing crimes in these areas, which is why mugging and robbery happen more in these places.

Sources at DMP said a total of 22 lawsuits were registered over extortion in the capital, which rose to 59 in 2022. No data on extortion cases, a senior DMP official said, was recorded in 2022 separately. These cases were attached to cases on other issues, and the DMP registered a whopping 8,007 other cases. Previously, 18 extortion cases were filed in the capital in 2019 and 22 cases in 2022.

A total of 49 cases were lodged over kidnapping in the capital in 2021 and 2022 each, which increased to 59 in 2023, according to data from DMP.

Police busy with other work

Police could not explain why mugging, robbery, extortion and kidnapping are on the rise in the capital, additional commissioner Mahid Uddin they could not tell the specific reasons for the upward trend in these crimes since the DMP carries no research on it. There might be many social and political factors for the rise in such crimes, he commented.

There are many reasons including population growth behind the rise in such crimes, observed Saber Ahmed Chowdhury, the chairman of the Peace and Conflict Studies department at the University of Dhaka.

He told Prothom Alo that in addition to social factors, police also could not give time to decrease the degree and type of crimes since the police are mostly busy taming police violence and other work, resulting in an over rise in both type and number of crimes.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna.