Incidents of carjacking have marked a significant rise over the months as more than two vehicles are stolen in every 24 hours from the capital. Such growing incidents of vehicle theft have given rise to serious concern among the car owners and law enforcers as a significant number of those vehicles are being used in various criminal activities like mugging, robbery and drug peddling.
Law enforcers, car owners and crime analysts held less consciousness of the car owners, absence of punishment for the criminals, inadequate technological support to trace down vehicles and carjackers and growing market for stolen vehicles responsible for the rise in carjacking incidents.
They also suggested installation of updated safety device and taking enough information about the drivers before their appointment to avoid any possibility of falling victims to such organised gangs.
Official data showed that a total of 2,983 vehicles were stolen from January, 2011 to August, 2014, making an indication that more than two vehicles were lifted by the thieves in a day.
According to the data of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), the trend of such criminal activities is continuing to grow over the years as 643 vehicles were stolen in 2011 followed by 870 in 2012, 910 in 2013 and 560 in last eight months of the calendar year.
Of the stolen vehicles, private cars accounted for the highest number (801) followed by motorbikes (689) while 2207 vehicles were recovered by the law enforcement agencies.
It also said 2,574 people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the crimes during the aforesaid period of 44 months.
Police say over 60 carjacking incidents occur in the capital on an average a month and those vehicles are used in various criminal activities including mugging, robbery and drug peddling while some are sold or disassembled and then sold in parts.
According to the anti-vehicle theft unit of the DMP, at least 30 gangs of car lifters comprising around 300-600 people are active across the capital.
When contacted, Shaikh Nazmul Alam, Deputy Commissioner (north) of DB police, said the gangs steal vehicles and then use those for carrying contraband drugs and other criminal purposes.
Some of the car lifters sell those to spare-parts shops in the capital.
He said the thieves have devised a new technique so they can sell stolen cars at market price, using fake documents, obtained through a section of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) officials.
After stealing cars, the thieves bribe the BRTA staff to provide legitimate registration documents for other cars, matching the make and model of the stolen vehicles. Following this, they doctor the stolen car’s parts – replacing the engine, chassis, and registration numbers with data from the legitimate registration documents.
The criminals then change the numbers on the relevant car parts and paint the stolen car like the same colour as the legitimate registered vehicle, essentially making a clone.
“We’ve recovered 18 of such private cars last year,” he said, adding that they cannot move inside the premise of their offices easily because of stockpiling of dozens of recovered cars there.
Seeking anonymity, an inspector of the DMP’s anti-vehicle theft unit, said most of the ringleaders have now been operating from outside the metropolitan area to avert the watchful eyes of the law enforcers.
“We’ve managed to arrest some of the gangsters over the last four years. But the detainees managed to secure bail through their highly-paid lawyers. Then they again involve themselves in such offensive activities,” he added.
According to several officials of the unit, stolen cars are sold between Tk 0.2 million and Tk 0.3 million each while a stolen motorbike costs Tk 25,000 to 35,000 in the black market in and around the capital.
According to them, the stolen vehicles are kept at different places in Madaripur, Shariatpur, Narayanganj, Manikganj, Gazipur and Munshiganj districts, he said adding that each gang member gets Tk 4,000-5,000 for stealing a motorbike and Tk 8,000-12,000 for a car.
An assistant commissioner (AC) of the plainclothes police said there are some garages in the capital where the stolen cars are kept at Tk 700 to Tk 800 a day as rent before sale and the most vulnerable places in the city for vehicle theft are Abdullahpur, Uttara, Banani, Gulshan, Rampura, Badda, Mirpur, Shahbagh, Jatrabari, Mohammadpur and Old Dhaka.
The incidents of carjacking have become a matter of serious concern for the car owners and drivers as in some cases it took away lives of the people who try to prevent the gangs from committing such offences.
On November 10 last, unknown assailants hijacked a newly purchased private car after shooting its driver, Mohammad Faruk, to death at Rampura in the early hours of that day.
Talking to the FE, Khandakar Jahangir Hossain, a sub-inspector of Rampura Police Station said the car was newly purchased and brought in from Mongla port in Bagerhat for automobile business. “We’ve recovered the car from Keraniganj but could not arrest the criminals yet. Our drives are on,” he added.
Chairman of Criminology Department of Dhaka University Dr Md Ziaur Rahman expressed his concern over the growing trend of vehicle lifting, saying that people having cars now always in great fear of losing their vehicles.
“Lack of punishment, loopholes in filing FIR (first information report) and failure in bringing the kingpins to book inspired others to commit such crimes,” he added.