Teen gangs: Bring their patrons to book

Criminal gang cannot operate without the help of political quarters. The blessing and patronage of some powerful persons can be found behind every criminal gang. There is a 'exchange value' behind those blessings and patronages. Sometimes these gangs are given the responsibility of gathering people to political meetings and sometimes they are used to harass political opponents.

A report published in Prothom Alo on 13 February sheds light on the alarming reality of criminal gangs in Dhaka city. Despite being labeled as 'teen gangs,' none of their members fall within the teenage bracket. Aged between 19 and 25 years, these criminals are implicated in a myriad of illicit activities.

According to the latest report of Prothom Alo, the number of teen gangs in Dhaka city is 80. The newspaper in last year’s June mentioned existence of 52 such gangs. Why did the number of teen gangs increase more than one and a half times in eight months?

This data is provided by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), which is in charge of maintaining law and order in Dhaka city. The more alarming information is that these teen  gangs have the support of local public representatives or ward councilors.

Prothom Alo's report mentioned names of 21 word councilors quoting the DMP. There is no guarantee that the gangs have no other patron outside these 21.

Local government bodies were elected on a non-partisan basis earlier. Supporters and leaders of all parties participated there. But since the local elections started to be held under the party symbols, representation of the opposition party in these bodies started to decrease both in the post of mayor and councilor.

Now, 95 per cent councilors of Dhaka city belong to the ruling party. So, just as they claim credit for the development of the area, they also have to take the responsibility for misdeeds.

Although the accused councilors claim their innocence, information shows their camaraderie with the teen criminal gangs. They often lobby for the criminals when any of them are arraigned. These criminals are involved not only with extortion, rather with murder, robbery, drug trade, usurpation of land and house also. Victims file lawsuits but get beaten instead without getting any remedy. In 2023 alone, there have been reports of the alleged involvement of teen gangs in at least 25 murders in Dhaka city.

Local public representatives cannot shun the responsibility of these crimes in their locality. Even if they are not personally involved with these crimes, did they take any action against these criminals? Did they help the law enforcers nab these criminals? They did not. Rather, they in many cases lobby in favour of these criminals to release them.

The role of law enforcers is also questionable in this regard. While so many criminal gangs indulge in so many crimes in Dhaka city, there is little example of these criminals facing punishment.

DMP or police stations are not seen taking any action against the crimes committed by these teen gangs. Police in many cases discourage filing any case. Even if cases are filed, the criminals do not get punished for lack of evidence.

To rein in these local criminal gangs, their patrons must be brought to book.