LAHORE - The provincial police this year uncovered at least 1,561 drug peddlers by publishing their pictures and particulars online as part of a major anti-narcotics drive.
Several women are also among hundreds of drug pushers caught by police from various parts of the province since January this year. Most of the arrests were made in the country’s second largest city, as Lahore police intensified raids to smash networks of drug dealers.
Law enforcement officers, during the last eight months, arrested at least 1,561 drug suppliers from different districts of the province. The dealers were sent to jail after police seized drugs from them.
Although police arrested a large number of drug suppliers this year yet hundreds of dealers are openly doing the business across the province. Thousands of people are involved in drug selling in the country where millions are addicted to drugs.
Lahore police launched the anti-drug crackdown at police station level after compiling lists of criminals involved in this ‘business’. In November last year, city police revealed that there were more than 1,100 narcotics dens in Lahore. Out of the total 1906 dens located in Lahore, at least 1123 deal in drugs, 318 in prostitution and 465 in gambling.
During its anti-drug drive, Lahore police stepped up raids in the drug infested towns and arrested hundreds of dealers and seized huge quantity of drugs from them. Most of the people were arrested from Tibbi City, Gowalmandi, Yakki Gate, Ravi Road, Lorry Adda, Badami Bagh, Shafiqabad, Nolakha, Taxali Gate, Mochi Gate, Data Darbar, Shadbagh, Misri Shah and Shahdara areas.
Some 20 drug addicts are found dead in the above-mentioned areas of Lahore every month. These localities are known as the worst-hit places in Lahore as far as drug consumption is concerned. “These areas had become safe havens for drug pushers. The non-stop police raids forced many suppliers to leave the area,” a Lahore police officer said. “The crackdown is ongoing and police are hunting down the drug dealers,” he added.
In June, Lahore DIG Operations Haider Ashraf distributed cash and commendatory certificates to city police officers for successfully smashing active gangs of drug dealers in the metropolis. In a single raid, city police had arrested two drug dealers and seized 41kg charas and opium from them.
DIG Haider Ashraf said the arrests were part of the police crackdown against drug dealers and suppliers in Lahore. The field officers were directed to step up the clamp down on the drug pushers. Several special police teams are also constituted to hunt down such criminals.
The narcotics smuggled to Lahore from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are first supplied to dealers in such areas from where they push the stuff to underground markets in Lahore and other districts of the province. In the Punjab capital, tons of narcotics are supplied to dealers who freely sell the stuff, sometimes in connivance with the local police.
This was not for the first time that the provincial police published online the photos and addresses of the drug dealers. But a record number of arrests shows many people are selling drugs in every nook and corner of the province like candies.
Last year, at least 715 drug dealers were named in the official record after they were arrested during police operations. In 2015, police arrested at least 1612 drug pushers while 994 people were arrested by police for selling drugs in 214.
In 2016, the provincial police put online an album of 204 female thieves with their pictures and particulars to sensitise citizens about the domestic workers having criminal history. The photos of at least 204 women from all over the province were uploaded on the website of the Punjab Police on the “public services” page. The addresses of these housemaids and the cases reported against them were also mentioned on the online page.
A senior police officer said the initiative was part of the police plans to maintain and update the data of criminals online.This practice of information sharing with public will help build police image and bridge the communication gap as well, he said.
According to him, the police department published the data of criminal domestic servants in order to create awareness among the people. The police have also uploaded the data and photos of criminals involved in dacoities, robberies, auto lifting, child abuse, burglary and cattle theft.In the section of child abuse, the photos of at least 35 criminals are uploaded. Similarly, the police also printed the data of another 639 criminals involved dacoities. The photos of at least 84 car thieves were also published online.According to police, the department started entering the data of criminals into the high-tech system early last year. “The police department retains record of all the arrests and makes every conviction public,” an official said. “This data of criminals is grouped in different categories to educate the masses.” Citizens can get information about the criminals online by visiting the Punjab police website.
On the other hand, crime and security experts say the criminal records are stored in massive databases, which can provide police agencies located around the world access to important information when they need it. “Every police agency that makes an arrest retains a record of it, just as every court that convicts someone of a crime retains a record. All court convictions are public record and can be searched and viewed by anyone,” they argued.
Some experts raised questions over this police initiative, saying that the law enforcing agency registers a large number of fake criminal cases every year. Therefore, the database could be exploited or misused.