LAHORE - The provincial police killed as many as 340 criminals in ‘encounters’ across the province during the previous year. In 2015, at least 457 criminals had been killed in shooting with policemen.

Most of the gangsters were killed in “staged shooting” as the country’s largest law enforcement agency mounted security operations to hunt down criminals and suspected militants. The latest data released by the provincial police department this month shows an aggressive and year-long police campaign against the most wanted criminals.

In addition to such large-scale killings of criminals in police encounters, the Punjab’s counter terrorism department also killed dozens of terror suspects during the security operations last year. Most of those killed by CTD were later identified as commanders of the banned outfits or terror groups and they were involved in terrorism activities.

At least 25 policemen lost their lives while fighting criminals in 2016. Only, nine cops were martyred in shooting with criminals in 2015. Overall, at least 291 police encounters took place in the province during the last year while the police had reported at least 394 armed encounters with criminals in 2015.

The police last year also arrested at least 169 criminals following the armed encounters. However, in 2015, some 273 gunmen were arrested by police during such operations.

Every year, some 350 to 450 suspects are killed in police encounters throughout the province. During the last five years, police gunned down no less than 1600 criminals in the crime-infested province.

Despite extra judicial killings there was no let-up in the crime incidents taking place in the province. The Punjab police last year registered at least 408,283 crime cases against 382,932 cases reported in 2015. Some 25,860 cases were still under investigation and the police declared at least 22, 271 cases as untraceable.

The police last year witnessed a reasonable increase in the cases of rape, gang rape and abduction. However, the incidents of murder, attempted murder, dacoity, robbery, burglary, and vehicle theft registered a slight decrease in 2016 if compared to such cases reported in 2015.

All the reported crime cases are divided by police into two categories – crime against person and crime against property. The police in 2016 registered at least 50,388 cases under the head of crime against person while in 2015 the police had reported 49,800 such cases. Similarly, at least 80,319 cases were registered in the category of crime against property in 2016 from 84,518 such cases reported in 2015.

The conviction rate improved considerably in 2016 from 2015. According to police, at least 69,069 criminals were convicted and 70,057 were acquitted in 2016. During 2015, at least 68, 718 criminals had been convicted and more than 65, 260 were acquitted.

The cases reported by police under the head of “local and special laws violations” also registered a reasonable increase in 2016 as compared to the previous year. The Punjab police reported 150,574 cases in the category of local and special laws violations while in 2015 at least 144,357 cases had been registered under this head.

The incidents of murder decreased almost by nine per cent in 2016 as compared to the previous year. At least 4522 murder cases were reported in 2015 while 4112 persons were murdered in different incidents in 2016. The provincial police are yet to trace a few hundred 150 blind murder cases. Most of the blind murder victims were women who were found killed in different parts of the province.

The provincial police also reported at least 4564 cases of attempted murder in 2016 as compared to 5170 such cases reported in 2015. Moreover, the police reported 17,088 cases of hurt in 2016 against 13,446 registered in 2015.

The police reported at least 13,334 cases of kidnapping in 2016 while last year at last 13320 such cases had been registered with the provincial police. As per police record, the incidents of kidnapping for ransom dropped almost 59 per cent as police reported only 35 such cases in 2016. The police had reported at least 78 incidents of kidnapping for ransom in 2015.

Police officials say an increase in abduction cases was seen in the Punjab province during 2016 when parents of runaway children filed a large number of complaints with the police and they got registered child abduction cases. The police took strong action to tackle the situation and more than 95 per cent of the missing children were recovered.

The Punjab province also saw a steep rise in rape cases in 2016. The surge in violence against women is quite common in this province where most of the female victims don’t report the crime to the police either because of their family background or due to influential perpetrators.

At least 2942 rape cases were registered with the provincial police in 2016 while in 2015 the police had reported 2737 such cases. Similarly, some 223 cases of gang rape were registered by police during the last year. The police in 2015 had also registered 223 cases of gang rape.

At least 951 cases of dacoity were registered in 2016 across the province against 1,537 such cases reported in 2015. Police are yet to trace more than 80 dacoity cases. However, some 133 cases of dacoity are still under investigation.

The robbery cases dropped from 16,388 in 2015 to 13,675 in 2016. But the police are yet to trace more than 2627 robbery cases reported across the province in 2016. At least 2,128 robbery cases are still under investigation.

Also, the police reported 11,627 cases of burglary in 2016 while at least 12,727 such cases had been reported in 2015. At least 1375 theft cases were reported with police during the last year against 1681 such cases registered with police in 2015.

At least 16, 042 cases of motor vehicle theft were reported in 2016 while in 2015 at least 17,805 such cases had been reported. Similarly, the police reported 3,857 cases of motor vehicle snatching in 2016 against 4,903 such cases reported in 2015.

The official data suggests that there was no let-up in the incidents of heinous crimes in the Punjab province in 2016 although the police killed hundreds of criminals in ‘encounters’ like previous years.