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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Dhaka police fear crime wave
Dhaka street scene
Dhaka's population now exceeds nine million
By Alastair Lawson in Dhaka

A senior policeman in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Motiur Rahman, has said that there are not enough police men and women to fight street crime.

Bangladeshi soldiers
The army is being used for traffic duty
Mr Rahman said he was increasingly concerned about the problem, even though crime in Dhaka was being kept within tolerable levels.

However, press reports say there have been a rising number of murders and muggings.

And the army was deployed last week on traffic duties in Dhaka following allegations that police were allowing congestion to get out of control.

Lack of staff

The Commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan police, Motiur Rahman, told the BBC that while street crime had been kept within tolerable limits, he was concerned that his force was under-staffed.

Police beat demonstrator
The police will have to keep rival parties apart
Mr Rahman said he could only devote 3,500 police men and women in the battle against street crime.

He said that figure was too low in a city where the population exceeds nine million.

Mr Rahman said he could not deploy more police because his force was also responsible for traffic management and protocol duties.

Newspaper reports abound of murders and muggings, with most of these crimes being committed to rob victims of money.

In some cases they involve teenagers or even children.

Wednesday's edition of the Daily Star says police recently discovered the body of a five-year-old boy who had been murdered in a pond near a residential area of Dhaka.

Gunfights between street criminals and police are also frequently reported, with photos of the corpses appearing on the front pages of many newspapers.

Although the police deny Dhaka is in the midst of a crime wave, many people are becoming increasingly nervous about travelling alone late at night.

Election issue

The decline in law and order is likely to be one of the key issues in the Bangladeshi election.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party accuses the ruling Awami League of failing to stop street crime and political violence.

With the election expected soon, Dhaka's hard-pressed police force will also be responsible for preventing violence between rival parties.

Mr Rahman said he could not predict whether this year's campaign would mirror previous elections when government and opposition supporters clashed regularly on the streets.

But he said he would do his utmost to ensure the vote was free and fair.

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