By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Police in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, are deploying an armed unit of skates to stop robbery and harassment on their crowded streets.
Gliding in a circle with their weapons pointed inward and raising and lowering their weapons in unison, the 20-member black-clad unit undergoes rigorous training.
“We felt we needed to come up with an innovative approach to control street crime,” said Farrukh Ali, head of the unit, explaining that officers on skates could more easily chase thieves on motorcycles through the city of 20 million.
Ali admitted that skating police could not be deployed in many parts of Karachi due to poor road conditions and uneven roads, but said they would be dispatched to public places with a higher incidence of robberies and harassment.
“This is just the beginning,” said Aneela Aslam, a policewoman with the unit. “This skating will really benefit us. With this training, we can get very quickly into narrow alleys where it is normally difficult to get to.”
Safety concerns were raised when initial footage from the Karachi unit’s training showed officers with heavier weapons, but Ali said the unit would only carry pistols, reducing the risk of bullets firing.
The skating police, which follows in the footsteps of similar units in Europe and elsewhere, are expected to officially begin next month, but were recently spotted outside the Pakistan Super League cricket tournament venue.
And they have already started patrolling the lively Karachi beach.
“Seeing them here in clean uniforms from the morning gives us a sense of security, as even during the day, robberies happen here,” said pedestrian Muhammad Azeem.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Karishma Singh)