Teen gangs are raising their ugly heads across the country, especially in Dhaka, getting involved in various crimes, including robbery, murder and rape.
As many teens are getting involved in crimes at an early stage of life with the emergence of such gangs, it will be difficult to rehabilitate them bringing them from the wrong path.
Apart from this, unlimited access to the internet and the stagnant political situation are blamed for the rise in the ‘youth-gang culture’ in the country.
From “Big Boss” to “Disco Boys,” the grafitties of these names are a common sight on the walls of many residential areas of Dhaka city.
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 2017, during the investigation into the murder of 14-year-old Adnan Kabir, police discovered that the crime was the result of a turf war between two rival teen gangs in Uttara area.
Adnan, a ninth-grader student, 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 area.
Of the cases, three were filed with Ramna, Shahbagh and Hazaribagh police stations each, two with Kamrangirchar, three with Bangshal, two with Kotwali, three with Jatrabari, one with Shyampur, one with Motijheel, six with Khilgaon, two with Shajahanpur, two with Mugda, two with Hatirjheel, two with Tejgaon, four with Mirpur, one with Shah Ali, two with Darussalam, two with Rupnagar, and two cases were loadged with Dakkhin Khan police station.
Analysing the data of the three months, it was found that a total of 107 teenagers were made accused in the cases filed on various charges, including rape, drug trading, robbery and extortion. The boys are typically aged between 14 and 19 years.
About the rising teen gang-culture, psychologist Prof Dr Mehtab Khanam said, “It’s our collective failure as students, teachers, parents and civil society of the country.”
She said children should not be engrossed with only books rather they should be given practical exposure in terms of extracurricular activities, sports and indoor games for better mental health.
The psychologist also underscored the need for building a healthy family life, providing proper training on parenting and teaching pedagogy to keep children away from criminal activities.
According to police and Rapid Action Battalion, around 50 juvenile gangs are currently active in the capital. The gangs, each usually having 10-15 members, are reportedly involved in trading drugs besides being addicted to it.
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.
Police and RAB sources also said the teenage gangs are sometimes used by political parties to settle their own scores with their political rivals.
The teenager gangs earn money from drug trading as well as petty crimes, such as robbing pedestrians.
The investigators gradually found at least 15 juvenile gangs active in the capital’s Uttara area alone where the gang culture took root in 2001 with the rise of a short-lived group known as ‘Kankra.’
The law enforcement agencies have discovered the existence of several teen gangs, such as ‘Disco Boys’, ‘Power Boys’, ‘Nine MM Boys’, ‘Bichchhu Bahini’, ‘Don Group’, ‘Munna Group’, ‘Black Cobra’ and ‘Nine Star’.
Police conduct drives against teen gangs members round the year in the capital. But it conducted a nine-day special drive from January 26 to February 3 this year in Hatirjheel area.
During the drive, police detained around 400 teenagers from the area. As most of them were minors, they were handed over to their respective parents.
Recently, the law enforcement agency also arrested five members of two teen gangs known as ‘Chan Jadu Group’ and ‘Bandage Group’ from Mugda area in the capital on June 22.
Commander Khandaker Al Moin, director (Legal and Media) of the RAB Headquarters, said, “Society, families and educational institutions all have responsibility to keep the children away from criminal activities.”
He also said, “We need to keep track of where our children go, who they associate with and what they do and everyone must work together to combat the problem.”
Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP)’s Sociology department teacher Saiful Islam blamed the easy access to the internet and social media, saying this exposes many children to vices.
He said nowadays there are many varied contents available on the internet and social media such as TikTok videos, video games and pornography. “Teenagers are getting involved in crimes due weakening role of the family, lack of moral lessons at home, impact of family disputes and physiological pressure,” he said.
“Once the street children were involved in crimes but now the children from the rich families are also getting involved in crimes like drug trading and addiction,” Saiful said, adding that parents need to be more aware and keep the children under strict monitoring so that they cannot get involved in crimes.
State Minister for Social Welfare Md Ashraf Ali Khasru at an event said the teen gang culture is an alarming signal for the society. “We should ensure various social movements to combat such an evil sign.”