LAHORE - The incidents of armed robberies increased significantly in the holy month of Ramazan, although police threw massive a security blanket across the province to counter street criminals.

During the last week, robbers looted houses, shops, motorists, and passersby in many parts of Lahore and fled after snatching cash, gold ornaments and valuables worth millions of rupees. Dozens of citizens were deprived of cars and bikes as police failed to control the incidents of auto-theft.

The victims of armed robberies hold police responsible for the worsening law and order situation in Lahore. They say that several organized gangs of criminals are freely roaming on city roads and robbing innocent citizens but the police were unable to chase and arrest these bandits.

According to police sources, armed bandits struck the provincial capital for more than 140 times during the previous week and made off with cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables worth Rs 750 million. Auto-lifters also took away 14 cars and no less than 56 motorcycles from different parts of the city during the previous week.  Police sources say they believe more than 200 robberies including house robberies are taking place daily in the largest Punjab province. But police report only 25 per cent of the total crime incidents due to one or another reason.

For an instance, robbers equipped with pistols and riding on motorcycles hit the provincial capital for more than 16 times on Thursday, and made off with cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables besides cars and motorcycles.

Three gunmen forced their entry into a house located in the Sanda police precincts and took away cash and gold ornaments worth Rs 5.2 million after holding the inmates hostage at gunpoint. Similarly, four robbers riding on motorcycles held up the family members of Hammad at gunpoint in Garden Town police precincts on the same day. The bandits fled after collecting cash and gold ornaments worth Rs 575,000 at gunpoint.

A car-rider Akhtar was on his way home when two gunmen stopped him the Mustafabad police vicinity. The robbers held up his family at gunpoint and escaped after snatching cash and gold ornaments worth Rs 550,000. The police were investigating the incidents with no arrest made so far. Also, at least three cars and five motorcycles were either snatched or stolen away from different parts of the city on Thursday.  On Friday, gunmen riding on motorcycles also looted families in Wahdat Colony, Shalimar, Satu Katla, Naseerabad, and Johar Town police limits. The auto-lifters took away two cars and six motorcycles from different parts of the city.  Tens of thousands proclaimed offenders including hardened criminals involved in multiple killings, robberies, and other gun crimes are at large across the province. In Lahore alone, thousands of proclaimed offenders are also on loose.

With the onset of the holy month, the provincial police had unveiled the Ramazan security plan with massive deployment of police force at religious places, markets, and banks. As part of the security strategy, the police were ordered to intensify armed patrolling in addition to security searches at the entry and exit points of big cities. During the regional police officers’ conference, the police department decided that more than 90,000 police officers, personnel, private security guards and volunteers will perform security duties to guard religious places including 32,817 mosques and 2,758 Imambargahs.

While addressing police officers, IGP Arif Nawaz Khan stated that all available resources should be utilized for provision of security to 35,575 mosques and Imambargahs along with 1858 Madni Dastar Khawan and Ramazan Bazaars across Punjab.

“Combing and intelligence based operations should be carried out in all sensitive places of the province and also around the mosques and Imambargahs before the onset of Ramazan,” the police chief told the officers.  further directed that all the regional and district police officers to devise and implement best security plan to maintain peace in the respective districts.

On this occasion, the IGP had also stated that special attention should be given to the security of shopping centers, markets, and banks. The field officers were directed to ensure snap-checking besides supervision of different locations, hotels, inns, and guesthouses in the big cities.

Earlier, Punjab Additional-IG (Operations) Aamir Zulfiqar Khan informed the police chief that more than 90,000 police personnel, private guards, and volunteers would be deployed on security duties across the province. Also, police will guard at least 32,817 mosques and 2,758

Imambargahs.

The police patrolling units including Dolphin Squads and Quick Response Force were ordered to continue armed patrolling during prayers of Fajar, Magrib and Namaz-e -Traveeh during Ramazan. IGP Arif Nawaz said that banks should strictly follow the SOPs given by police and the armed patrolling should be enhanced around markets and banks.

But, the incidents of street crimes shot up significantly in all the six police divisions of Lahore including Civil Lines, Cantonment, Iqbal Town, Model Town, City, and Sadar police division. The Sadar and Iqbal Town police divisions registered high-crime rate in the holy month with many incidents of street crimes.

The provincial government in recent years provided latest model vehicles to the Lahore police for effective patrolling to control street crimes.

According to insiders, the Lahore police had been directed to implement a comprehensive security plan in the holy month of Ramazan by deploying trained security guards at religious places, shops, and markets after proper verification.

 A senior police official when contacted said that this year more police contingents were deployed on security duties around religious places, markets, and shopping centers in Lahore during the month of Ramazan as compared to the previous years.

The police have put in place a comprehensive security plan to guard religious places during Sehr, Iftar, and

Taraveeh prayers.

Also, there are special and surprise pickets established in every nook and corner of the city to counter street criminals.

He further said that the police security has further been heightened across the metropolis in order to protect the lives and properties of citizens keeping in mind the rush of shoppers in the markets during the last ten days of the holy month.