Crime goes down in the time of COVID-19

Thimphu Police Station (PS) and Phuentsholing PS usually record high crime rates. The two stations combined make the figures for highest crime rate in Bhutan.  But the crime rate this year, from January to April 2020, compared to previous years has actually decreased.

The closure of entertainment centers and shops by 7 pm, as part of the COVID-19 containment measure, has helped in lesser crimes being committed. People are also not allowed to loiter around town in groups or hold gatherings.

“Crime wise, it has decreased on a daily basis due to COVID-19. In 2019, from January to April we recorded 600 plus cases, while in same period this year, the crime reported was just 400, with a decrease by 200 plus cases, ” said the Officer Commanding (OC) of Thimphu PS, Gyembo Penjor.

He said that Thimphu city was always crowded prior to the COVID-19 case in the country. It was difficult for the police to disperse the crowd right after the announcement of 1st COVID-19 case.  However, the intensive patrolling along with awareness programs to sensitize the public, and timely intervention by the government has helped to reduce the crowd.

OC Gyembo Penjor said, “After the implementation of closure of shops by 7 pm, we have seen a decrease in number of people moving around. We make sure to close everything by 7 pm. Nevertheless, there are some night travelers and some people roaming around, and we are strictly monitoring them.”

People tend to hide in various corners of the city, some in bars and snooker rooms, the OC said, adding that some bar owners were repeatedly warned and those who failed to comply the rules were detained.

“In some cases, we had to seize and surrender the bar license to Trade for necessary action. They were dully warned before taking such steps. People are well aware though,” he said.

The police sensitize the people while they are on patrol and for door-to-door sensitization. However, some people harass the police personnel, especially the youth who use all sorts of abusive words and refuse to disperse. In such situations, the uncooperative people are taken the police station, he said.

He added that the vehicle movement during the daytime is same as before due to the office goers. The police personnel are strictly monitoring the movement of people and vehicles at Sangaygang and Buddha Point, Kuenselphodrang. In addition, there is also a decrease in drug abuse cases but still it is happening as evidenced with drug smugglers being caught frequently even now.

Likewise, a police officer from Phuentsholing PS said that though there is a decrease in cases, like battery, assault, larceny, theft, auto stripping, however, there is an increase in the number of cases drugs and tobacco products smuggling.

He said, “What some people across the border need is alcohol and what Bhutanese need is tobacco. We have arrested a few people doing such businesses.”

He said the town is calm and settled down by 8 pm with only a very few people and vehicle movement. Most of the shopkeepers in Phuentsholing are non-Bhutanese, which is why it remained closed since the lockdown in India.

“There are people who are not ready to maintain social distancing and they tend to harass our people instead. But our men are in the field 24/7 educating people. Having to monitor throughout is challenging though,” the police officer added.

The manpower shortage faced by the police is being addressed with help from Desuups, local volunteers, teachers and scouts, and volunteers from NLC. They are all briefed on safety measures before deployment.

Royal Bhutan Police is constantly asking the people to maintain social distance, stay home as far as possible, and to avoid taking children outside. Public gatherings and even annual rituals are to be avoided.

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