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Crimes and Criminals

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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.

Crime, as seen one among several forms of deviance, is a type of anomic behavior; some others characterize it as a more conscious response to social conditions, to stress, to the breakdown in law enforcement or social order, and to the labeling of certain behavior as deviant. Crime rates are driven by different factors in each society.

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. Thy 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.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, June 03, 2015,


At 08:59, Blogger Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I think that crime holds a fascination because so many of us can feel intense emotions but not act on them. When we come across someone who has, it stops our world cold. There are so many dynamincs that factor into pathology. I agree that focusing on education, heath and other social issues is necessary. Sadly, it is not always viable, which makes the tragedy of crime all more upsetting.

Another great post, Shirazi!

At 09:40, Blogger Deb S. said...

I agree with Dr. Deb. This is a fascinating article. It certainly got my attention.

I think you would find some sociological, psychological and economic parallels if you studied crime in Pakistan and the U.S.

At 13:19, Blogger rama said...

The importance of this concern cannot be overstated. Thanks for your thoughts. Hopelessness - sadly, some people like to thrive on other people's despair and hopelessness. I have been working for 10 years in a workers' slum in Howrah, India. Here "crime" or "illegality" touches everyone's lives, whether they know it or not. (For instance, illegal electricity is the only electricity available to the ordinary slumdweller. And supplying illegal electricity is an important livelihood source for the people!) The "legal", the "good", is not an option available to people. They have also been socialised in the "illegal" from their infancy. The "legal" and "good" society around them does not want to embrace them, and they are unable to gain full access to this domain. Is not the society that countenances all this, the whole system of governance that perpetuates this, the chain of social and economic expolitation and double standards (in-humanity) - as criminal, if not more than the individual criminal??? But the individual petty criminals do get caught, jailed or even killed eventually. But the larger factors live on unabated. It makes one regret one is alive at all. Best, rama

At 08:41, Blogger Rose said...

Great post Shirazi. I think about this alot. Maybe it is because it is all I read about in many of the communities that surround me. Crime is everywhere. Folks try to figure this out-why? There are so many factors-economical, psychological, pathogical and just cold blooded evilness. Yes education, and trying to eliminate many of societal concerns may work for a few but we need to figure out what will work for the masses of criminals.

At 00:34, Anonymous ayesha said...

A very absorbing read!

At 10:08, Blogger EXSENO said...

I realize that all of these reasons that you give are factors for crime, but don't you also think that the last few generations of children were not raised with as much values as the one in the past. Parents have a more relaxed way of raising children now.

Manners and values don't seem set as high as the used to be.

At 01:41, Blogger Id it is said...

A comprehensive analysis!
Taking out hopelessness, as you pointed out, is perhaps the one sure shot way of reducing crime no matter which part of the world it may be in. Man feels threatened when he is in a hopeless situation and resorts to extreme measures as a result. Providing hope to all, is what society has to aspire to.

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