KHARTOUM (Sudanow) — As related by Police Captain Omar Ahmed Tabeedi in his facebook page, a pickpocket with the name Hareega (fire!) in 1993, in the White Nile Town of Kosti, was famous for knowing the names of all other pickpockets in the area. And whenever such a theft would occur, he would sure secure his share from it, applying his trade-mark tactics in such situations.
He was not that strong, nor was he that fierce. But he was very knowledgeable of what happens in the town. And a few moments after a pick- pocketing incident would take place, he would in no time stand before the culprit asking for his share in the catch. “My share or the jail,” he would tell the offender. He would never be contended with less than one third of the stolen sum, but never exceeding half of it!
No pickpocket, however strong he could be, would escape Hareega’s authority, simply because he would tell the police about what the pickpocket had done and where and how much he had taken from the victim.
One morning, says Captain Tabeedi, and while I was checking the town’s unified list of crime records, I came across a report about a theft of fifty thousand pounds. I immediately moved to the concerned police station to get the details:
An elderly man over seventy had come to Kosti from Um Rawwaba area to be operated on for the removal of an eye cataract. He had worked hard to collect the sum; also receiving some disbursements from his family members and friends.
I was told the man was lying on the ground in the police station’s garden, not knowing what to do and how he could go back to his home village now that all his money was stolen.
I took the man with me in the car to the criminal investigations unit where, upon questioning, he said a thief had torn his pocket to let the sum drop on its own. He did not know where the theft had occurred nor where the sum had fallen from his pocket, saying that he cannot accuse a specific person of the offence.
Then in the light of this scarce information, I decided to seek Pickpocket Hareega’s help, telling the driver, Corporal Mohammad Tiyya, to quickly look for the man and bring him.
In half an hour Corporal Tiyya was back; Hareega with him.
Seeing the elderly victim by my side, Hareega apologetically said: Sir! It is now almost a week since I had trodden in the Alsh’abi (Popular) Market! Why are you arresting me?!
Here I took Hareega to the Police Club, made him sit underneath a shady tree and asked the cafeteria attendant serve us a breakfast of broad beans. After that we also took tea and coffee. Then I took out my cigarette box and offered him one. When he took the cigarette I took my lighter out and tried to light his cigarette for him. He quickly pushed my hand aside saying: No, No. You can’t do that! He took the lighter and lit his cigarette by himself, saying: you are an unusual police officer. While I was expecting from you a number of slaps on my face and body, I take breakfast with you in one dish and also you want to light my cigarette for me. If I go around telling this story nobody would believe me. I wonder why people fear you that much. They have even nicknamed you Rambo (after the hero of the famous action film); I don’t know why.
Then I told him about the story of the pick-pocketed old man as If I were speaking to a friend, not a habitual offender; all the time harping on the values of humanity and clemency.
I felt that he was not interested in the story of the old man. He was just enjoying his friendly chat with the chief of the criminal investigations!
Then he asked: If you do not accuse me of pick-pocketing the old man, what do you want from me?
I want you to help this poor old man, I replied .
“I will help you on one condition, ”he replied.
“I agree ,”I said.
“My own method, not yours,” he said.
“I agree, ”I said.
Here he asked me to order the capture of all the known pickpockets in town and bring them to the police station immediately.
Two hours have barely passed, until when I found no less than 30 pickpockets aged between seventeen and thirty years around me in the place. How bad it is that there is such a big number of young men in the world of crime in my town. Some of them were good looking and some others carried scars and deep bruises on their faces as a result of their being in this dangerous and futureless occupation.
I asked them one by one: What do you do?
Each one gave the same reply: Pickpocket!
Then Hareega said: Search them and empty their pockets.
I made a list of their names and ordered their pockets to be emptied, writing the sum found with each of them against his name in the list. A sum of 75,000 pounds was found .
Here Hareega said: Sir, this is my way of solving the problem!
After a short pause, I asked them each to tell me about the amount he did not steal from the sum found with him and has gained in a lawful manner. Nobody replied, everyone looking the other way as I asked.
“You are a malaise.. a harmful part of our society’s body that should be chopped off. Look at this old man who cannot even walk without the help of his stick. He travelled for a long time to find a cure for his eye and one of you now so rudely destroys his dream of binging light to his eyes. Who of you can tolerate to see his father in such a situation ? I will not be like you to take your money. I can file cases against all of you. But from now on I will not have mercy on anyone of you who may fall in my hands in such a crime. Tell everybody about this”
Then I returned all the money to them and ordered them to disperse.
Then to my surprise all of them rushed towards the old man, putting what they had on his lap, some of them in tears.
The total sum thus collected was over one hundred thousand pounds!
Hareega then came forward laughingly commenting: Sir, you and your staff have searched them to come out with seventy five thousands. So, how did they give out the one hundred thousands?
“When I asked you to get the money out of them, you said you would do it your own way, and I accepted your condition. But helping the old man was done my own way, not yours. I said.
Then I asked Hareega to tell me who had pick-pocketed the old man.
“Close this dossier, Mister. I will not tell you because I have taken my share in the theft!”
“You dare say it openly?,” I asked.
"It is the truth. This is the last time I am helping you. I am Hareega and any pickpocket who does not give me my share, the way I want it, I will put him in jail. Goodbye kindhearted man!“ he said sarcastically.
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