Where Do Criminals Come From?

Posted on January 21, 2010
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, Economy & Development, Law & Justice, Society
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By S.A.J. Shirazi

Violent crimes have been at historic up nationwide; they are rising sharply in all cities. The rise seems to have been set off by something more bewildering.

Imagine Lahore only ten years ago: It was a different city; socially cohesive, closely knit. Young children could go visiting neighbors or to nearby shopping centers to get groceries and other things but not now. People then knew each other personally and had strong social bounds; hence courtesies for each other.

Things started changing with an exponential increase in urbanization. Large number of outsiders started moving in Lahore to live and or work. Now even the immediate neighbors do not know each other and people act like total strangers. Garish housing societies have come up on all the open spaces inside the city and Lahore has expanded much beyond what used to be municipal boundaries. The crime rate has grown with mush faster speed than the city.

What are the apparent causes? Many experts say that crimes are a result of disintegrating familial and dwindling community values that are contributing in turning young people into violent criminals.

Due to the growing demand for educated workforce and skilled labor, an employment base that used to provide jobs for those without a school certificate has shrunk considerably. This situation has resulted in a general lack of hope. “If one does not have skills, training, and when socio economic situation looks desperate, does that young man really have hope? I think that ties into the anger,” says a sociologist Dr. Muhammad Anwar, “This anger seem to be translating in to crimes, petty in the beginning that leads to more heinous ones at later stages.” This is the reasons that the criminals mostly are in their mid teens to mid-20′s.

One finds unskilled workers sitting in a linear fashion with their tools – mountains of paint brushes, piles of colour scheme cards, number of empty paint cans, digging paraphernalia and or hammers of different kind (who said unskilled labour) – along any city roads and squares waiting for a day’s job. They all come from suburbs to earn their livings. What options do they have when they do not get the job for the day and they have to go back home to family that is to b fed, is the question. They not only lose hope but may get frustrated that may lead them to resort to unfair means, what ever is possible for them.

Similarly, the army of maids and home servants who come from nearby villages and towns when dazzled by urban glamour are incited to commit to petty crimes and thefts.

Not only unskilled and uneducated segment, even degree holders find it difficult to get their first job after graduation because traditionally the job market in slow economy of Pakistan has always been tight. Which is why one reads reports of crimes (from purse and mobile phone snatching to car lifting to burglaries and murders) being committed by people from effluent class and living in posh localities of Lahore? Though generally, the poorer neighborhoods are considered to be the hubs for frequent criminal happenings. Let me hasten to add, this does not imply that there are no crimes in posh localities like Defense Society, or Gulberg or the criminals living in these localities can not commit crime around Railway Station or Badami Bagh Bus Terminal or Lakshmi or Bhatti gate.

Besides hopelessness, crimes are attributed to greed, to an evil nature, to poor parenting, to television, to movies, to the Internet, to whatever seems to be popular and not in accord with our old societal value system. These and many other are the reasons that we find crime rate rising on an alarming rate.

Crime statistics, like any other officially reported data, cannot be considered reliable. In the past decade, Lahore has been awash with guns. Empirical evidences tell that Kalashnikov and other automatic weapons have become ubiquitous in Lahore, city called cultural capital of Pakistan. This fact makes the crime quick and fast, much faster than law enforcing agencies to track.

Criminality extends into all levels of society and it cannot be restricted to the largely undefined boundaries of Lahore. Given the fast and efficient communication means (roads network, mobile phones, more transport), it has been observed that criminals sometime come from suburbs, make their day and go back uncaught. Those who study crime debate say, “Criminals may be from anywhere but all crime is local, of course, and each city has its underlying causes.”

Analyzing crime is an absorbing exercise. It throws up new facets of crime and new ideas on how to cope with them. The real tragedy, however, is that there is hardly a national debate on crime, like the one seen in the developed world; where the crime are more. “Unless crime hits hard personally, I am not concerned,” is the worst attitude that is exhibited some time.

The only long term solution to put an end to crimes and make our society more civilized is to end hopelessness. How to create hope in the people and tolerance in our society are the real issues that need to be addressed. And this can happen when every one is conscious and does what ever is possible.

The solution is not with police or any other law enforcing agencies. “The problem is much deeper and the solution has to be long term. Combating crime firmly and honestly is one thing. Provision of education, heath and other social securities, fair play in practices and procedure are some other starting points. Collectively, we should act responsibly and are some factors to start if we have to combat crime,” Dr. Pirzada Inam Karim.

SAJ Shirazi blogs at Light Within. This is based on original, which appeared in The Nation.

19 Comments on “Where Do Criminals Come From?”

  1. Ahmed says:
    January 22nd, 2007 8:42 pm

    I think crime is gonna happen in any place where extremely rich people are living next to extremely poor people. In Lahore the number of shopping centres, eateries and car show rooms have mushroomed, but the social services are stuck or even worse than 10 years ago.

  2. Shimreen Qudsi says:
    January 22nd, 2007 9:09 pm

    We download them from the internet.

  3. Shimreen Qudsi says:
    January 22nd, 2007 9:10 pm

    Or you can recruit them from the Parliament and the local Police Station.

  4. Aqeel Syed says:
    January 24th, 2007 9:31 am

    The divide between rich and poor is the main cause of crimes. Many crimnals are doing crimes to meet their daily needs. A purse or mobile snatcher isn’t going to built barony with his small theft. He is buying ‘Ata Cheeni’ for his family.

  5. Mumtaz Chaudhry says:
    January 24th, 2007 10:38 pm

    Pakistani society is very shallow and people show off a lot. Womens fashions change rapidly, making last year’s clothes old fashioned. Every one wants to dress good, eat good and posses what the guy next door has. Simplicity is not considered a virtue. A simple man may be reffered to as “Hai bechara”. The man of the family has to work harder and harder to provide for all these things for the family, which are not needs but wants.This creates resentment, frustration and tempts crime. On a personal note, due to failing health of my husband, we were thinking of moving back to Pakistan as an option. But I know it won’t work, because it costs more to live there than we are living here, simply and without “show sha”. Isn’t this a sad state of affairs?

  6. izaz haque says:
    January 26th, 2007 7:15 am

    There is a lot of talk of crime in Lahore, but no one i know has been personally afffected (at least in recent times). There is the usual spectacular thing that makes the papers (the religiuos strife, man kills family, etc.), but day to day, the city feels calm and people go about their business as usual with less fear of a purse snatching or car jacking than say, NY or LA.

    Any statistics to support the theme of the article.

    And, to say, we need to get rid of hopelessness before we address crime is in itself hopeless. I hope we can have a better crime prevention plan that that.

  7. usman says:
    November 19th, 2007 6:47 am

    only inequality is the basic cause of crime………crimes are necessary for capitalism…

  8. Qausain says:
    March 19th, 2009 3:23 am

    //The only long term solution to put an end to crimes and make our society more civilized is to end hopelessness. //

    vary true …
    20-25 saal pehlay bhi kuch zyda kushhali nahi thi Pakistan main, lakin law & order ki situation bohat behtar thi.

  9. Checker47 says:
    January 21st, 2010 11:51 pm

    Talking about crime in Lahore. Just think what Karachi is like where migration from other parts of the country started much much earlier. Nobody thought anything of it then and today when other cities are facing the same situation and its after effects, we seem to take notice. It’s too late now. Come to terms with this and evolve strategies to face this.

  10. DARWEESH says:
    January 22nd, 2010 4:28 am

    In a country where people still are ignorant of their proper use of vote and keep voting for the “best friends” of Thanedars(SHO),Patwaris(junior most revenue official), how crime be controlled ?
    Of course, this vote is mostly cast by poor people under threat from candidates who themslves are the top ruffians(in most cases) of the area.
    We still live in medievial ages and unfrotunately our destiny is still in the hands of Sultana Dakoos

  11. Hira Mir says:
    January 22nd, 2010 6:14 am

    @checker. Why such a comment. Its not about Lahore, Karachi or Multan. We are one country and that makes us all Pakistanis. If crime and terrorism hits Karachi we feel the same pain as if it has hit our country. We keep discriminating and reflecting intolerance due to which we are facing instability today. I hope someday we are more openminded and be united as ONE NATION that is Pakistan rather than commenting on provincial borders.

  12. Vinnie says:
    January 22nd, 2010 6:26 am

    The TIME has come now to unite and even spy at each other. Believe me this could be very fruitful.

    Keep noticing and looking around even going anywhere for any suspicious activity. Be Bold and Brave or this Crucial TIME will sweep us all away in the Terrorism’s TIDE .

  13. shakeel says:
    January 22nd, 2010 6:40 am

    Pakistan is in big troubles and we are not doing anything about it.

    Our police need to be better equipped/trained, not be involved with any political party (be neutral) and please increase the number of police force.

    392K for a country of over 168million is peanuts!

    Education, a better economy is also needed.

  14. Aziz says:
    January 22nd, 2010 1:48 pm

    Formula to reduce crime.

    Hire more policemen.
    Better equip the police force.
    Increase their salary.
    Recruit cream of the crop for the police force. Recruit people who are educated, committed and posses physical ability to pursue criminals.
    Train the police force to handle different situations. Some may require brute force whereas other may require more knowledge of the criminal’s behavior and sweet talking.
    Introduce harsh punishment for taking bribe including immediate lifetime suspension and/or jail time (Although I like the good old days in Egypt when they used to paint their faces black and had them ride a donkey around town)

    That said, you cannot install a police officer at every corner of the street. To get rid of street crime, do following.

    Educate, educate, educate.
    Build schools
    Build infrastructure
    Provide jobs
    Birth control

    Now you guys decide where to get the money from to get the above things done. One way to do that is to reduce the size of the army. This will resolve most if not all of the issues. I am aware of the fact that some people on this forum are very sentimental to reducing the size of the army. Call me naïve but I think otherwise :)

    Anyway, lets start with these and see if we are able to reduce crime. Many US cities with high population have successfully reduced crime solely by reinforcing the police force. With a good police force a high number of crimes will vanish. The petty crimes can be eliminated by access to better education and economic stability.

  15. ShahidnUSA says:
    January 22nd, 2010 8:05 pm

    I just want you all to rationalise one question without getting
    too emotionlised.
    Which is a better deterrance, an atomic bomb or an educated pakistan?
    Now we have an atomic bomb but an uneducated pakistan.
    Bad decisions made in the past will have an adverse effects on the generations to come.
    An alcoholic (poor judgement) politician or leader is equally dfangerous as nonalcoholic dumb (no judgement) politician.

    Yes, educate, educate, educate!

  16. rose says:
    January 22nd, 2010 10:39 pm

    Education and parent involvement is very important in instilling values and hope in people.

  17. Umbreen says:
    January 23rd, 2010 4:56 am

    I’m a huge fan of the ATP blog because I love the insightful, measured analysis on Pakistan from a local perspective (i.e. not ex-pats blogging from abroad about Pakistan.)

    That being said, this post actually really annoyed me as being the simplistic analysis we hear all too often.

    Urbanization is ‘bad’ because neighbors don’t know each other and act like strangers. That’s because lots of “outsiders” came to live in Lahore.

    What about all the GOOD things about urbanization and high urban density; like the ability to support arts and culture and the openness and creativity of urban culture??What about the fact that there is a strong case for urbanization being the solution to our climate problem??

    And oh yeah, can’t forget its these mostly poor “outsiders” who move the Lahore and can’t get good jobs and so there is crime.

    YES, YES, let’s focus on the petty crimes of purse and cell phone snatching that the ‘poor’ people do. What about the white-collar crimes? What about the politician crimes that result in multi-million dollar bank accounts overseas?

    Oh yes, and can’t forget. People are criminals because of values that are not traditional and because of TV and the INTERNET!

    Please ATP – stick to your regular writers!

  18. obaid says:
    January 23rd, 2010 10:03 am

    moojhen hoon tuo natho lal jesi.

  19. readinglord says:
    January 23rd, 2010 8:48 pm

    There is an old wise saying that crime is caused basically by three things: Zan, Zar, Zamein. But what we have forgotten today is the role of ‘Zan’ that is the ‘SEX’ in giving rise to crime. I recall a seminar on rape on TV a few years ago wherein a high official of Police had stated the following:

    “The police caught culprits in 13 cases of the most heinous crime, hous-break roberry, recently wherein all the culprits admitted that they had commited rape with victim family, but none of the latter complained about this crime in their FIR because as one of them told me on enquiry that they did not want to publicise their humiliation.”

    Our closed sociey which was already sex-starved is being made all the more hyper in this respect by TV, Internet, etc. by growing extremism in sex-segregation and the general sex-phobia with the result that rape has become so hipered that even children are not being spared. In fact today in our mullah-ridden society our religion has been shorn of all moral content and has been reduced just to a mechanical ritualization whereby all sins can be washed away by mere ritual ‘woozoo’, except, perhaps pissing with your face towards ‘Qiblah’ and blasphemy .

    So as stated by Dr, Pirzada, the problem being much deeper its solution has to be long term; requiring, in my view, perhaps changing the very mindset of the people. As a short term measure we should prescribe at least the punishment of castration for the rapist.

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