A measure necessitated by the increasing number of violent incidents involving youth

Law and order: The police will begin frisking youth for weapons, if found in groups of two or more after 10pm, it was pointed out by the police chief at a press conference on Thursday.

However, individual youth found after 10pm will also be frisked and questioned, if acting suspiciously.

Police chief, brigadier Kipchu Namgyel, said that a proposal to ban the sale of knives to youth, and to impose a restriction on youth loitering late at night, will also be submitted to the home ministry, shortly.

The police chief said that such measures are being pursued, given the increasing number of battery or violent incidents involving youth and the kinds of weapons being found on them.

At the press conference, weapons seized from youth were displayed and included a wide variety of knives, swords, an axe and even a broken bottle.  Other weapons included knuckle dusters, a nunchaku and a motorbike chain.

“We’re really concerned with the different types of youth crime that is coming up,” the police chief said.

There were 75 battery cases including youth in 2014 and 18 of these included stabbings.  There were also 12 cases of malicious mischief involving youth recorded by the police, last year.

The police chief pointed out that there have already been six battery cases involving a stabbing and five malicious cases recorded this year.  He said that, while there were other offenses, the police was more concerned about violence.

The police chief also pointed out that the forming of groups or gangs is reemerging.

The police began tackling the gang issue when it first disbanded two large prominent gangs, each with around 400 members, in Thimphu in 2010.  There were a total of 53 gangs in Thimphu alone at the time.

If a weapon is found on a youth, the youth will be handed over to the parents or guardians with a warning.  A second offense would lead to arrest, detention, and being charged to court.

The police chief said that, irrespective of age or gender of the youth, a second time offender would be arrested and charged to court. “Let the case be acquitted, we don’t care, we’ll fight against it,” the police chief said, adding that a strong message had to be conveyed.

The police chief pointed out that police personnel would distinguish between those carrying knives as part of tradition and culture, such as a villager having a knife tucked into his kera, or a woman carrying a knife to cut doma.

He said that the general trend being observed is that parents or guardians were not looking after their children. “Our children are loitering as if they don’t have any parents or guardians,” he said. “Everybody is out in the streets with daggers and knives … middle of the night you’ll find children shouting in the streets and fighting with bottles.”

On whether the police had taken any measures to increase the personal security of personnel. who come in contact with armed youth or adults, the police chief said that the police force would prefer an approach of increasing public cooperation. “We don’t want to get armed with sophisticated side arms,” he said.

However, it is now compulsory for all personnel on patrol to carry a baton.  But the police chief said that not everyone did follow the requirement, as a gentler approach was preferred. For policewomen, pepper spray has been provided.

The chief said that the next step would be to arm personnel on patrol with stun guns, but that this would indicate that they were afraid. “We’re not here to fight a battle, but here to request the cooperation of the general public.”

By Gyalsten K Dorji