From “Big Boss” to “Disco Boys”- these names stare at passersby from the walls of the capital city’s most residential areas.
These otherwise curiosity-evoking names bared their ugly teeth for the first time in 2017, catching law enforcement agencies by surprise and triggering public concern.
That year, while investigating the murder of 14-year-old Adnan Kabir, law enforcers discovered the crime was the result of a turf-war between two rival teen gangs.
Adnan, a ninth grader, was allegedly a member of a gang called 'Nine Star’ operating in Uttara. He was attacked by members of another teen-gang 'Disco Boys' also based in the same upscale residential-cum-commercial township.
Since then, there has been a proliferation of teen-gangs across Uttara and other parts of the burgeoning capital city of about 20 million people.
Police and Rab estimate that around 50 ‘juvenile gangs’ are currently active in the capital. The number fluctuates depending on the anti-gang drive by the law enforcers.
The gangs -- each usually having 10 to 15 boys’ members -- are reportedly involved in trading drugs besides being addicted to it, police and Rab sources said. The boys are aged between 14 and 19.
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 fight, they said.
They said the gangs are sometimes patronised by political parties to help them settle their own scores with their political rivals.
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, Black Cobra apart from Nine Star and Disco Boys.
The gangs usually play a hide-and-seek game with police and Rab.
When law enforcers go hard after them, the gangs keep quiet until the field gets clear again.
The gangs earn money from their drug trading and then spend it mainly on buying their drugs. They also take to petty crimes such as snatching and robbing passersby of their money.
Both social scientists and law enforcers point to the upbringing of teenage children by their families. Also, they blame the easy access to Internet and social media exposing many children to vices.
Dr Sadeka Halim, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Dhaka University, said so many varied contents are available on the net now such as tiktok videos, pornography and much more.
Prof Sadeka said even when they (teenagers) attend classes online, they find ways to watch content they are not supposed to.
“The adult gangs take advantage of this,” she said, adding, “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.
“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 aged gangs’ members round the year when they get information of their activities in the capital.
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 of 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 they (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 last.
Md Abdul Ahad, Deputy Commissioner (Motijheel zone) of the 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 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 last. They were members of two local teen gangs -- ‘Don Group’ and ‘Munna Group’.
They have long been involved in many criminal activities, including robberies, muggings, drug abuse, eve-teasing and extortion, reports UNB.