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 responses to “Where Do Criminals Come From?”

  1. readinglord says:

    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.

  2. obaid says:

    moojhen hoon tuo natho lal jesi.

  3. Umbreen says:

    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!

  4. rose says:

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

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