Crime wave

Internal Security Forces arrest a man after he snatched money from one of the tellers at a Beirut branch of Bank Audi on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

Lebanon and the Lebanese have often shown a fierce pride in being close to the values and behavior of the West – the problem is when Lebanon approaches the Wild West, and not just the West.

The authorities are currently being asked to deal with a pressing security matter. It’s not an imminent Israeli incursion in the south, or a cross-border incident of violence that involves Syria. It’s not the threat of devastating earthquakes, destructive forest fires or a threat to public health and safety, such as rotten food.

It’s a two-man “gang” of thieves who, mounted on one motorcycle, have managed to knock off four banks since late last month, according to the latest available information.

The armed robbers are a threat to public security, and thankfully no one has been killed as part of their deadly exploits, only injured. But the response by the authorities has left huge question marks about what is to come.

The fact that two individuals have been able to pull off these robberies is extremely worrying, since Lebanon during the Civil War never witnessed this type of low-grade petty crime.

A high-ranking police official told The Daily Star this week that the Internal Security Forces couldn’t be expected to station a person in front of every home and store in the country. This is true – while the police certainly need to see their numbers beefed up and made more efficient, there is also the matter of the judicial system. When the process of tracking, detaining, accusing, trying and convicting criminals breaks down, would-be thieves and murderers feel relatively safer engaging in the business they’re in.

The authorities must simply do more to address this pressing problem, which can easily spread to crime waves in any part of the country, or targeting specific areas. The country’s pharmacies could once again see a rise in attacks and thefts – or it could be jeweler’s shops, or car dealers, or people on the street, getting their valuables taken by pickpockets and purse-snatchers.

People should not forget that the authorities never really managed to deal with a recent wave of church donation boxes that were targeted by thieves – and they have yet to clamp down fully on the phenomenon of stealing electrical cable, which has plunged entire villages into darkness.

And when two people armed with a gun and a motorcycle, can manage to rob four banks in a three-week period, the situation is truly worrying.

The developments lead to the conclusion that little hope can be placed in the authorities’ ability to provide safety and security for the general public. In the end, no one takes responsibility for such failures, and the word “resignation” does not even enter the minds of politicians and officials who spend so much time lecturing the public about having faith in their government.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 13, 2012, on page 7.




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