LAHORE - The provincial capital witnessed steep surge in the incidents of armed robberies during last week, with the police registering more than 20 armed robberies, 21 bike thefts, five to six dacoities, and four incidents of street crime on a daily basis.

Only a couple of months ago, the police had successfully brought down the number of street crime in the metropolis but robbers went on the rampage last week. They robbed families, passersby, and motorists at gunpoint. Dozens of citizens were also deprived of their bikes and cars, just a few days before Eidul Azha.

In one week, armed bandits struck the provincial capital for more than 320 times successfully, and made off with cash, gold ornaments, and other valuables worth millions of rupees. The gunmen also took away 35 cars and no less than 120 motorcycles from different parts of the city.

Gangsters equipped with pistols and riding on motorcycles committed most of the robberies in Johar Town, Sanda, Misri Shah, Mughalpura, South Cantonment, Satu Katla, Liaqatabad, Shahdara Town, Iqbal Town, Lytton Road, Ghaziabad, Gulberg, Defense-A, Sabzazar, and, Nawan Kot police precincts.

Across the province, the police reported at least 600 dacoities and 8051 robberies during the first seven months of this year. Similarly, the Punjab Police registered at least 9460 cases of motor-vehicle theft and 2240 cases of motor-vehicle snatching from January to July. Also, the police reported 3307 cases of cattle theft during the same period.

Several organised gangs are active in the booming business of auto-lifting in big cities of Punjab where cops are unable to control vehicle-theft. Every year, more than 20,000 people are deprived of their vehicles either by thieves or robbers from across the province. Police recover less than 10 percent of the total snatched or stolen vehicles while thousands of cases are declared as “untraceable” and disposed of after completion of legal formalities.

Sources believe that more than 300 robberies including house robberies are taking place daily in the Punjab province. They say that the police are reporting only 25 percent of the total crime incidents in order to hide heinous crime happenings.

Although the police noted a slight decrease in the category of crime against person yet there was no let-up in the incidents of crimes against property like house dacoities, road robberies, vehicle lifting and snatching.

The province also witnessed a slight increase in the overall crime rate this year. During the first seven months of this year, police registered at least 239,406 cases as compared to 228,726 incidents reported during the same period last year. Out of total 239,406 incidents of crime registered during the first seven months of this year, the police reported 30,378 cases of crimes against person. The police also reported 47,348 cases of crime against property across the province.

On the other hand, the police force is ruthlessly killing gangsters and militants in “shootouts” throughout the province. As many as 209 criminals were killed during the first seven months of 2016 while at least 233 criminals shot dead in 2015.

In Lahore, the police are strengthening the patrolling units to counter criminals by ensuring quick response. A motorcycle riding force, Dolphins Squad, is working as the first respondent force and their basic job is only patrolling in their beats. According to the SOP devised for the dolphin force, a squad of two motorcycles with four policemen patrols on city roads to fight criminals involved in street robberies.

Recently, the city police department observed 20 minutes as average police response in the sprawling metropolis. For an instance, the police responded to 537 emergency calls on Tuesday. On 379 occasions, the police reached the crime scene within 20. Police took 30 minutes to reach 93 other spots. The patrolling units responded to at least 18 incidents after one hour. And, it took more than an hour to the policemen to reach seven other crime scenes.

The department has been struggling to ensure quick response to crime incidents and officers say they would be able to reach on crime scenes within 10 minutes after a couple of months. Traffic mess, bumpy roads along the metro-train site, and congested areas hinder police response in different areas.

The city police last month claimed they smashed 88 gangs of criminals by arresting their 217 members. A spokesman for the Lahore police said they also seized booty worth Rs14.2 million from their possession. During the last month, the city police also arrested 1445 proclaimed offenders and court absconders during the crackdown.

Lahore DIG Operations Dr Haider Ashraf directed the field police officers to implement the national action plan strictly by utilising full energies to curb crime in the city. On his directions, all divisional SPs stepped up their efforts against the criminals.

During the crackdown against illegal weapons, the police registered 369 cases against 369 accused. Three Kalashnikovs, 23 rifles, 18 guns, 333-revolvers and pistols, two carbines, six daggers and 1997 bullets were recovered from their possession. During its campaign against the drug dealers, the police arrested 596 drug pushers and registered 593 cases against them. Police also seized 8-kg heroine, 258-kg charas, 3-kg opium and 3854 bottles of liquor.