LAHORE- Amid uncertainty in the police hierarchy, the crime rate has swelled to an alarming level in the Punjab province as citizens are deprived of their properties and valuables including cars and motorcycles worth millions of rupees during the first five months of this year.

The police performance plummets adversely as the cops given key slots during the caretaker set-up poorly failed to handle the rising trend in the incidents of dacoities, abductions, and street crimes as well.

The provincial capital has become safe-heaven for the gangsters since the cases of killings, kidnappings, robberies, and other heinous crimes are rapidly increasing in Lahore, where the police performance is adversely declining due to one or another reason. For an instance, dacoits Friday robbed 10 houses at gunpoint and made off with cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables worth Rs9 million besides 11 cars and motorcycles in several successful strikes in different parts of the provincial capital.

The police record reveals that at least 8500 vehicles were either snatched or stolen away from different parts of the province during the first five months of this year, suggesting 15 percent increase in the incidents of auto-lifting if compared to the previous year. Lahore appeared to be the worst crime-hit city, where dozens of citizens of being deprived of their cars and motorcycles on daily basis.

From January to May 2013, the police reported more than 12500 cases of dacoity, robbery, burglary and theft which took place in different parts of the Punjab. At least 5000 cases of dacoity, robberies, and burglary were reported only in Lahore. The police in the Punjab also reported more than 2500 cases of cattle-theft during the first five months of this year. The situation indicates a considerable surge in such incidents.

Police also admitted that more than 1000 cases of dacoities, involving five or more than five gunmen, were reported in the province during the same period. More than two dozen people were gunned down as they tried to put up resistance against armed robberies.

Apart from 2000 murder cases, the police have registered 50 cases of kidnapping for ransom this year so far. No less than 20 cases of kidnappings for ransom are still under investigations. At least 45 cases of gang-rape were also reported in the province during the first five month and the police are unable to trace most of the cases yet.  Police sources say some 95000 accused declared as Proclaimed Offenders in different cases are still at large in the Punjab province. More than 50,000 POs are wanted in various criminal cases only in Lahore.

What to say about the unreported cases of crimes taking place in the province, where the law enforcement agency has publicly admitted its poor performance in dealing with cases of heinous crimes. Insiders say the police’s emergency service (Rescue-15) in Lahore receives around 100 emergency calls daily. More than half of such calls are proved genuine, which indicates that the police should have registered 60 cases of robberies a day. But the police register only 15 to 20 percent cases of robberies and street crimes in order to show their good work in the official record.

Contrary to police claims of bust gangs of criminals, the crime data from January to May shows that incidents of robberies and snatching of cars, motorbikes, cell phones, and other valuables are on the rise with every passing day.

The victims of armed robberies held police responsible for the worsening law and order situation in Lahore saying the gangs of teenage boys, criminals and proclaimed offenders are freely roaming on city roads and depriving innocent citizens of their valuables. “The bandits are striking brazenly in connivance with the police. No one is serious to improve the law and order situation in the province,” says Fahad Saleem, a resident of Ichhra who was deprived of his motorcycle at gunpoint in February this year.

Last year, the police had killed more than 350 alleged gangsters during fake encounters, staged in different parts of the province to bring the crime graph down. However, there is no let-up in the rising crimes and law and order situation as the police are unable to provide protection to the lives and properties of the citizens.

An officer in the Lahore police, when contacted, said that unemployment, illiteracy, bad governance, misuse of power, and poor police working are the major reasons for the rise in crimes. He claimed that the crimes rate could be brought down if seasoned and committed officers are posted on key positions to clear the mess in the otherwise corruption-riddled police. The dearth of experienced officers in the department is also badly damaging the police working since many of the officers, who were given key postings under the caretaker set-up, left their jobs weeks before the new government comes into power, he underlined.