LAHORE - The country’s largest law-enforcing agency has failed to trace more than 17,400 cases of crimes including 200 murders during the first nine months of this year, well-placed sources confided to The Nation on Friday.

According to an estimate, the number of untraced cases during the last five years exceeds to 100,000, which reflects badly on the performance of the Punjab police.

The Punjab police have admitted in a departmental report that the police investigators are unable to trace as many as 17,448 cases of crimes including 16577 cases of “crimes against property” and 872 cases of “crimes against person.”

Although the police claimed that the ratio of untraceable cases dropped slightly as compared to previous years yet the numbers of undetectable crimes cases have put a big question mark on the working of the Police Department.  Police sources state that once the police investigators declare a criminal case as untraceable in the official record it means that the case could be solved only if a miracle happens.

In simple words, an officer said, the investigations into the blind cases of crimes are shelved, once and for all.

In 2012, the police had admitted that they failed to trace more than 20,000 cases of crimes. Similarly, the police had failed to trace at least 19821 cases of crimes including killings, attempted murders, abduction for ransom, robberies, auto-lifting, and cattle-theft in 2011.

In the category of crimes against property, more than 262 cases of dacoity, 3506 of robberies, 2677 of burglary, 256 of theft (under section 382/PPC), 5855 of motor-vehicle theft, 877 of motor vehicle snatching (at gunpoint), and 294 of cattle-theft have been declared as untraceable.

Similarly, as many as 2850 cases of crimes of other nature as also declared as untraceable due to reasons best known to the police hierarchy.

In the category of crimes against person, no less than 207 cases of murders, 305 of attempted murders, 37 of hurt, 121 of kidnappings, one case of kidnapping for ransom, six cases of rape, and two cases of gang-rape could not be traced as well. The police also failed to trace 871 cases of crimes of other nature during the first nine months. What to state about the unregistered cases of crimes when the law-enforcement agency has publicly admitted its poor performance in dealing with cases of heinous crimes.  The conviction rate has also put a big question mark on the working of the Investigation Wing of the law-enforcement agency. According to police, at least 296266 cases of crimes of various natures have been registered this year till September while only 51332 accused persons were convicted and 49261 were acquitted during the corresponding period.

On the other hand, according to official figures, the police killed 216 alleged criminals in staged encounters during this year (from January to September) while last year the police had eliminated 201 alleged gangsters in armed encounters.

From street crimes to auto-lifting and armed robberies to house dacoities, the police have failed to smash the organised gangs, which are striking brazenly and with impunity across the province.

Police sources reveal that auto-lifting has become a flourishing industry for the gangsters in the provincial capital because on average about 20 citizens are deprived of their vehicles daily. Apparently, it seems that Lahore police have completely given up when it comes to street crimes and armed robberies.

According to official statistics, compiled by Punjab police, at least 20,000 vehicles were taken away from January to September from different parts of the province. Ironically, the police have declared 6500 cases of auto-lifting as untraceable. This means that these vehicles would never be recovered since these cases are untraceable.

When contacted, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera was not available for his comments. However, a senior police officer on the condition of anonymity blamed the investigation wing of the police over poor performance in solving the cases of heinous crimes.

Since the cops are busy in minting money, nobody should expect improvement in the worsening law and order situation, he said. At a time when crime rate is multiplying, the police are only focusing on the cases of public dispute to receive the bribe - from both the accused and the complainant.  This has become a common police practice in the cases registered under Section 406, 506, 489-F, and 365.

The investigators must use modern techniques to trace the criminals and focus on blind cases to unearth the gangsters. The government should also upgrade the investigation wing of the Punjab police to improve its working, he emphasised.