Karachi: 200,000 cellphones snatched in city over 5 years
KARACHI: Karachi topped the list of cellphone snatching across the country, a key indicator of street crimes, as more than 200,000 people were deprived of their cellphones during the last five years, it emerged on Sunday.
The number of people whose cellphones were either snatched or stolen across the country, excluding Karachi, between 2006 and 2011 was over 400,000.
A recently released annual report of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that the number of snatched or stolen cellphones blocked since 2006 under their International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers by the telecom watchdog with the assistance of the cellular companies and the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) stood at 623,495.
During the five-year period, according to the CPLC, a total of 219,927 cellphones, or over 35 per cent of the total number in the country, were snatched or stolen in Karachi.
“Blocking of IMEI is another successful initiative of the authority for the community,” said the PTA report. “This facility, opened by the authority in 2006, is availed by the owners of mobile telephones for getting blocked the IMEI of their stolen, snatched or lost mobile phones.”
The fact came as a little surprise for many. With over 14,000 victims last year alone, street crimes at gunpoint remained a serious problem in the country’s commercial capital. The city police approach to combating the menace remained unclear, as people aware of the city’s crime records, said that the situation would be no different in terms of other crimes like vehicles snatching and lifting.
“I firmly believe that the number of reported crimes is lower than the exact situation on ground,” CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy told Dawn. “People have gradually accepted street crimes as a part of their routine life. No effective effort from police coupled with the typical thana culture have convinced them to stay away from reporting the crime.”
But another fact that raised several questions is about the effectiveness of the cellphones blocking system through the IMEI. The technology was initially meant to discourage the cellphone snatchings that on the one hand deprived the people of their valuables and on the other sparked a fear in society. However, the data collected and shared by the PTA report does not sound encouraging.
“PTA also provides the facility to unblock handsets following SOPs in case the lost or stolen mobile handset is found or recovered,” it said. “Since the commencement of this facility, 623,495 IMEIs have been blocked. Out of these, 34,902 handsets have been unblocked following proper verifications of owners’ claims.”
People engaged with the crime-handling business one way or the other do not sound convinced with the ‘facility’ as claimed by the PTA.
“It has almost become ineffective,” said the CPLC chief. “When it was launched in 2006, it was quite useful and effective, as we personally had witnessed a decline in the crime trend as well as the resale of used phones. But the technology has been countered by better ones. Softwares available in the market unblock blocked phones within minutes. Cellphones of every brand and origin can be unblocked and unfortunately nothing has come up to counter that edge.”