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Group street fights surface, battery cases rising

… some indicate that gangs are re-emerging in the country

Yeshey Lhadon

Small groups of youths involved in a street fight of about five individuals is a frequent encounter for the police force.

The City’s Officer in Command (OC) of Thimphu, Gembo Penjor confirmed that there are no gang fights in the country, and the fights are mainly amongst groups, they are mostly friends of about five individuals. 

Also, the OC confirmed that stabbing cases are on the rise. 

OC also said that there are fighting or harassment cases on a daily basis during party nights. 

This led the city police to start intensive patrolling at odd hours at night. 

On the possibility of remerging of gangs in the country, and also a rising number of fights involving groups, the OC said that there have been no incidences of gang fights. “However, there is groupism,” OC said.

The maximum number of individuals involved in a fight as a group is 12 the police have snubbed so far. They were all friends and not gang members.

However, some of the youths that hang out together say that there is a possibility of the existence of gang members. They say, they often hear some of their friends say that they can easily call about 50 to 100 individuals if ever a fight breaks out, or if there is such a need. 

“If they are not gangs, and if such a huge number is ready to fight, what is the activity or difference to label them a gang,” asked a 21-years-old youth. 

For the intensive mass patrolling, after the government announced further relaxations, there were lots of youths coming out at night, carrying all kinds of weapons including swords, knives and patangs, also, there were also incidences of stabbing among the youths. “Stabbing cases are also on the rise,” OC said. 

Despite the shortage of police force, the city police commanded intensive mass patrolling. However, the shortage is compensated by additional forces from the police headquarters during the mass patrolling. 

The city police have set target areas to check for crimes during the night. “The force focuses mass patrolling on the areas that have a higher frequency of crime occurrence,” OC said. 

Particularly on party nights, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, the youths stay beyond the closing time (12 AM) of entertainment centres. “The mandate of the patrolling team is to work at odd hours, beyond closure time, and frisk and seize any weapons.” If found with a weapon, they are brought to the police station and their statement is recorded. 

However, the patrolling team had the chance to seize weapons only at the time of occurrence of stabbing incidences, and not during other times while frisking. This, the OC said is also a deterrence for the youths to carry weapons and consequently, not carry the weapon at all, however, he said that there are weapons used during fights, and the stabbing case is on the rise. 

For the rise of the stabbing case in the country, the age group of youths starts from 17 to 35. There are also some minors, and most of the youths involved in stabbing cases are unemployed youths and also partygoers.     

On protection for police personnel during the mass patrolling, the OC said that it has become urgent for the force to wear protective gear. The headquarters was appraised and it was immediately sanctioned. He also added that the police have also started carrying batons, and the sole reason for the baton is for personal safety. 

Stating reasons for the rise in stabbing cases amongst the youths, the OC said it is mainly because of entertainment centres. “Entertainment centres are attracting youths to sneak out from their homes late at night,” the OC said. 

Also, he said it is because parents and guardians are not taking care of the youths and youths comprise the maximum partygoers. 

With the border closure, youths are adapting to solvent drugs particularly paint thinners. “Even a 14-years-old boy is abusing thinner,” the OC said. 

The OC said due to the availability and dirt-cheap rate of solvent drugs, most youths are adapting to this kind of drug. 

Youths are also drinking alcohol, particularly at entertainment centres, the OC added. The OC said this was found when youths involved in crimes had to undergo drug tests. 

With the advent of mass patrolling, the OC said that there was a comparison of cases over the period of a month, and the crime rate has drastically declined. 

He said that mass patrolling had a huge impact on curbing crimes in the city. 

City police continue to mass patrol at odd hours at night. 

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