“How will you solve the problem of lawlessness and the circulation of weapons, and what is the time frame that you have set to restore security?” The fact that this
“How will you solve the problem of lawlessness and the circulation of weapons, and what is the time frame that you have set to restore security?” The fact that this question was among the major ones put to presidential candidates reflects the state of insecurity and lawlessness and the increase in crime on the Egyptian street. Even though figures comparing crime pre- and post-25 January 2011 Revolution are not easily accessible, the fact remains that the normal security felt by Egyptians before the revolution has been widely replaced by haunting fears that crime is just around the corner, and may hit any time, anywhere. Crime has become a reality Egyptians live with every day.
Huge crime rise
A recent study by Samiha Nusseir of the National Centre for Social and Criminological Research (NCSCR) summarises what took place last year, especially in view of the scarce security and prevalent chaos in Egypt. Murder cases reached a shocking 2,774 in 2011. Car thefts numbered 17,800, while there was a marked increase in cases of kidnapping, armed robbery and rape.
The study points to the fact that the revolution was followed by a security vacuum and a state of lawlessness, and consequently there were many instances of violence—especially after the prisons were forced open on 28 January 2011 and convicts escaped. The spread of thuggery and the use of weapons spread fear and panic among the public. Thugs intentionally incited riots in front of schools to terrorise children, and innovated crimes which until then had been rare or almost non-existent in Egyptian society such as highway and armed robberies, carjacking in broad daylight and the kidnapping of women and children for ransom. There was also a steep rise in house and commercial thefts, arson and pick-pocketing.
Catching the criminals
The study confirmed the huge rise in crime rates last year. Of the 2,774 murder cases, 1,360 were brought to a successful solution by the security apparatus. Last August was the month that saw the highest crime rates, with 220 murders and 2229 kidnappings in Cairo, Giza, Gharbiya and Qaliubiya governorates, either for ransom or because of commercial transactions.
A record 3,312 robberies were registered in 2011; 944 of the robbers were caught. The highest level of robbery took place in Gharbiya, Giza, Cairo and Qaliubiya, while September witnessed the highest rate, at 297 robberies.
The study also addressed car theft which scored its highest rates in the history of Egypt at 17,800, and was highest in Cairo and its satellite towns along with Alexandria, Qaliubiya and Giza. Car thefts took place not only during the night but also in daytime, and despite the recent relative reestablishment of security, their rates are still on the rise.
There were 495 cases of armed robbery during the year, most of which were conducted on the desert and agricultural roads around Cairo, Alexandria, Qaliubiya and Giza and targeted companies, banks and trucks loaded with goods and merchandise. In 221 of these cases the offenders were arrested.
Hordes of arms
The statements made by the then Minister of Justice Mamdouh Marei soon after the revolution stating that half a million thugs were active in Egypt, each earning EGP500 per day, shocked Egyptians.
A year and a half later these statements were confirmed by Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, who also revealed the existence of 10 million pieces of weaponry inside Egypt. A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Interior commented on the PM’s statement, saying: “We cannot deny the presence of hundreds of thousands of heavy weapons in the Egyptian street, especially in populous neighbourhoods, and desert and border governorates.
The security services are pursuing arms dealers and carriers on a daily basis through the database at the public security sector and the criminal investigations department. In order to seize illegal arms, groups of central security forces and criminal investigators who were appointed to desert roads have succeeded in seizing a daily average of 20 to 30 machine guns, and 100 on some days.
Stolen from police stations
According to the Ministry of Interior, most arms seizures are made on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road, al-Alamein, al-Kuraimat, the Western Assiut road, Marsa Matruh, and the Ismailiya road. The most important seizure was made a few weeks ago in the satellite town of 6 October, west of Cairo, and consisted of a truck loaded with 170 pieces of weaponry; in addition, 120 pieces were seized on the Kuraimat road and 90 in Ismailiya.
During the months of February and March, the security apparatus managed to seize
6000 automatic rifles, 200 Grinov guns, 325 RPGs, 350 machine guns, 500 Israeli-made guns and 5,000 locally-manufactured shotshell guns. Security forces also succeeded in closing many clandestine workshops for the manufacture of guns. In addition, the security forces are working on seizing arms stolen from police stations during the 25 January Revolution, 5,700 of which were seized during the last four months. In most of these cases, however, the arms are hidden in rough mountain areas. The arms seizure operations performed in these areas require careful planning and the participation of both General Security and Central Security forces to avoid casualties.
NCSCR professor Nabil Abdel-Karim says this crime phenomenon is a normal consequence of the 25 January Revolution; such types of so-called “post-revolution crimes” are generally obvious during and after revolutions, military coups and wars. Dr Abdel-Karim explains that the increase in crimes is triggered by the state of anarchy and lawlessness which follows sudden political changes and paves the way for outlaws to commit crimes freely without worrying about being caught.
During times of political uncertainty, many businesses are forced to close, either permanently or temporarily, leading to an increase in unemployment which is also a major factor in the rise in crime.
Yusri Abdel-Mohsen, professor of psychiatry at the Cairo University medical school, says criminals are not deterred by conscience, morality, or religious and national affiliation. The state of lawlessness thus constitutes a fertile ground for their criminal activities. More alarming, he says, is the fact that thuggery can be contagious. People who mingle with thugs and outlaws are encouraged to join in their actions, especially in the absence of law enforcement; as their number increases, they become harder to restrain and represent a bigger threat to society.
Dr Abdel-Mohsen believes it is imperative to avoid being lenient with thugs under claims of freedom and human rights. The Revolution asked for the establishment of these rights for law-abiding people rather than outlaws; sadly, however, what is actually happening is the relinquishment of the freedom acquired by the people in favour of the outlaws.
17 June 2012