The teen gang culture has developed in Dhaka in recent years
From “Big Boss” to “Disco Boys,” the grafitties of these names are a common sight on the walls of Dhaka's many residential areas.
These curiosity-evoking names bared their ugly teeth for the first time in 2017, catching law enforcement agencies by surprise and triggering public concern.
In the same year, while investigating the murder of 14-year-old Adnan Kabir, law enforcement officials discovered that the crime was the result of a tur war between two rival teen gangs.
Adnan, a ninth-grader, was allegedly a member of a gang called "Nine Star" active in Uttara. He was attacked by members of another teen gang named "Disco Boys," also based in the same upscale residential-slash-commercial township.
Since then, there has been a proliferation of teen gangs in Uttara as well as other parts of the burgeoning Dhaka city, which houses nearly 20 million people.
Police and RAB estimate that around 50 juvenile gangs are currently active in Dhaka city. The number fluctuates depending on the anti-gang drive by the law enforcers.
The gangs, each usually having 10 to 15 members, are reportedly involved in trading drugs, besides being addicted to it, police and RAB sources said. The boys are typically aged between 14 and 19 years.
Some members even carry illegal firearms and homemade weapons that they use in their turf wars. Taking control of an area of operation is the main reason for the fights, the sources said.
They also said the gangs are sometimes used by political parties to settle their own scores with their political rivals.
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Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, RAB media wing director in 2017, said the gang culture took root in Uttara in 2001 with the rise of a short-lived group known as "Kankra."
The investigators gradually found at least 15 juvenile gangs active in Uttara area. Disco Boys was one of them.
Over the years, law enforcement agencies have discovered the existence of several other teen gangs, such as Power Boys, Nine MM Boys, Bichchhu Bahini, Don Group, Munna Group, and Black Cobra, apart from Nine Star and Disco Boys.
When law enforcers go after them, the gangs keep quiet until the coast is clear.
The gangs earn money from drug trading as well as petty crimes, such as robbing pedestrians.
Both social scientists and law enforcers point to the upbringing of teenagers by their families. Also, they blame the easy access to the internet and social media, exposing many children to vices.
Dr Sadeka Halim, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Dhaka University, said there are many varied contents available on the internet now, such as Tiktok videos, pornography and much more.
She also said even while the teenagers are attending classes online, they find ways to watch content they are not supposed to.
“The adult gangs take advantage of this,” she said. “Parents need to be more aware so that their children don’t get involved in crimes. This is also the responsibility of society.”
Khandaker Al Moin, director of legal and media wing of the RAB Headquarters, said society, families and educational institutions all have responsibility for keeping the children away from crimes.
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“We need to keep track of where our children go, who they associate with, and what they do. Overall, everyone must work together to prevent this,” he added.
Police and RAB conduct drives against teen gangs members round the year when they get information of their activities in the city.
Police have conducted a 9-day special simultaneous drives from January 26 this year in Hatirjheel area, a popular recreational spot for residents and ironically also a hunting ground for the gangsters.
During the drive, which continued till February 3, the police detained around 400 teenagers. As most of them were minors, they were handed over to their respective parents on condition that the parents will report the kids’ progress to police once a week.
Police arrested five members of two teen-gangs known as "Chan Jadu Group" and "Bandage Group" from Mugda on June 22.
Md Abdul Ahad, deputy commissioner (Motijheel zone) of DMP, told UNB that two teen-gangs are active in Motijheel area.
Police have already prepared a list of those involved in gang crimes. The gangs commit crimes such as robberies, muggings, drug abuse, eve-teasing, gambling and extortion. “Drives are going on to arrest the gang members,” he said.
RAB personnel arrested 16 members of a teen gang from different parts of Hazaribagh and Darus Salam areas on June 21. They were members of two local teen gangs named "Don Group" and "Munna Group."
They have long been involved in many criminal activities, including robberies, muggings, drug abuse, eve-teasing and extortion.