Aleppo: alarming rise in thefts amid Syrian government’s inaction 

Two members from the Turkish allied-Free Syrian Army conducting patrols between the villages of Jalbul, Maryamin, and Anab in Afrin - 11 March 2018 (Enab Baladi)

Two members from the Turkish allied-Free Syrian Army conducting patrols between the villages of Jalbul, Maryamin, and Anab in Afrin - 11 March 2018 (Enab Baladi)

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Aleppo – Saber al-Halabi

Hussein returned to his home in the neighborhood of Hamdaniya in the western part of Aleppo to find himself the victim of a burglary. Pieces of his furniture were scattered all over the house, and drawers were all open.

Hussein lost around 5,772 US dollars in addition to two pieces of gold jewelry. Hussein immediately called the local Police station to report the burglary. The police arrived to inspect the place and collect fingerprints, which could help catch the thief quickly. The investigation went on for two months but led to no useful results, leaving Hussein with no hope to get back his money and jewelry.  

Significant rise in thefts

Lately, the Ministry of Interior of the Syrian regime has been repeatedly announcing the arrest of thieves, either after they became suspects or while committing robberies, for the city, according to interviews Enab Baladi conducted with several civilians and local security sources, has been witnessing a hike in thefts. 

In mid-May, Kamel, a resident of the al-Seyran neighborhood, reported to the police station that he heard a noise that sounded like someone breaking into his neighbor’s house, who had not been in his home for two weeks.  The police patrol arrested three burglars who were trying to leave the house. However, four days later, another house in the same building was ransacked, but this time the police did not show up when called.  

Kamel told Enab Baladi that the neighbors reported to the police that they heard unusual noises. However, the officers did not respond. And when the owners of the house came back to their home, they discovered that it had been robbed. The owners filed a complaint so that the police could conduct an investigation into a property crime. 

Within one week, seven home burglaries occurred in the same neighborhood, but the perpetrators remain unknown, even though the police had collected fingerprints and carried out investigations. 

 Residents have become increasingly afraid of being robbed amid the police’s deliberate inaction and recklessness. 

No security 

 Aleppo’s residents complain that the police rarely carry out patrols in the city at night, even though patrols are of paramount importance during power outages, which help thieves break into houses easily and undetected. 

The security and intelligence patrols deployed at the entry and exit points of neighborhoods do not make their residents feel more secure. This is because their activities are limited to arresting wanted persons, not pursuing thieves.

Even though the State Security Service and Air Force Intelligence were conducting a joint patrol at the entrance of al-Adhamiya neighborhood, they did not respond to a call from the residents of the neighborhood about a home burglary. They did not even accept sending anybody to handle the situation, Muhammad, a witness to the incident, told Enab Baladi.  

The next day, some of the neighborhood residents went to the Mukhtar and submitted a request to the Aleppo Governorate, demanding police patrols at night.

“The police sent patrols to the proposed locations on the first and second night. However, on the third, a police officer stopped for an hour and left. After that, the residents of the nieghborhood did not see the patrols anymore despite the demand for their return,” said Muhammad.

Thieves released via bribes 

Following the news of the arrest of some thieves in Aleppo, covered by the Syrian regime’s media and posted on social media platforms of the Ministry of Interior, thieves were released either on cash bail or through the help of some people with connections. This allowed thieves, awaiting trial, to leave the prison on remand, and allowed them to resume thefts.

During a robbery, the police arrested a group of thieves in al-Midan neighborhood. After they were taken to the Criminal Security Branch in Aleppo, near the barracks of Hanano, they were released following a phone call. They were held for no more than two hours in the branch and were not interrogated. Finally, however, the stolen items were confiscated, Enab Baladi learned from various sources.

Cases of releasing thieves have been frequent recently, primarily if the thieves imprisoned are informants or are affiliated with security services, such as members of the People’s Committees and Air Force Intelligence.

The thieves are also considered a chance for the officers to collect some money in exchange for their release.

Some thieves offer large sums of money in exchange for their release, which may reach up to 15 million Syrian pounds (4,630 USD), and sometimes much more. 

The officers of the police stations and security branches care only about deriving some financial benefits, asking thieves who are released not to carry out any home or shop burglaries for a short period of time. 

According to the Syrian Penal Code,  Article 620, the penalty for theft, including breaking into homes at night by two or more people, requires permanent or temporary hard labor from 15 to 20 years.

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