RBP sharpens its axe to make GMC ‘Zero Crime’ City

As preparatory works on the Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) begin to expedite, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) is also sharpening their arsenals to ensure that GMC, as well as other regions of Bhutan become a “Zero Crime,” region.
“GMC has become a very important part of Bhutan, not just for the RBP but for all our citizens. It is the vision of His Majesty the King to build a unique city, which is not found anywhere right now and the RBP began work immediately after His Majesty’s announcement on December 17th, 2023,” Colonel Passang Dorji, the Deputy Chief of Police (DCoP), Crime, said.
“Our goal is to make GMC a ‘Zero Crime’ or a Crime free City,” Colonel Passang said, adding there would be water tight security, so investors feel safe.
Colonel Passang shared that two groups of police were dispatched to GMC for three weeks each to understand the area in terms of security. “One team was on drugs and substance abuse, where in-depth study has been done on the types of drugs, peddlers, entry points, including those that are not identified as entry points. We want to get to the bottom of this issue, so that the root of the tree is uprooted,” he said.
The other group concerned traffic. “There should be seamless flow of traffic and measures to ensure that no accidents related to traffic occur. Our team has studied these aspects at GMC,” he noted.
According to the Colonel, findings of the two teams are being evaluated so that the RBP can come out with effective interventions. The RBP is also strengthening collaboration with related agencies across the border, especially with Indian police and other agencies.
Colonel Passang also shared that there has been drastic improvement in reducing crime. “Our officials are much more matured; service delivery has improved, there is professionalism in the force now and we use several new methods, like intelligence led policing. Due to this, the RBP is receiving support from people, which was not there in the past,” he added.
Additionally, the Colonel said that though crime prevention is one of the RBP’s main responsibilities, all stakeholders and the people are equally important. “If 50 percent or more of the public become our partners and help us, there will be less or no crime at all. Criminals may get away from us, but one or two of the citizens will see him or her,” Colonel Passang said.
The Colonel added that focus on GMC does not mean leaving the other districts and regions unattended. “We will provide our best services throughout Bhutan,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the RBP gears itself, discussions have emerged about budget provided to the RBP. “If 1 crime can be prevented, imagine the resources that can be saved. There will be no need for investigation, no need for the accused to be taken to court and other benefits,” a Thimphu resident said. However, as GMC will be a SAR, the same laws that apply in Bhutan will not be applied in GMC. In the case of the RBP, the Penal Code of Bhutan (Amended) 2015 grades crime severity. While it is not very clear if laws within GMC will be lenient or stringent than that currently followed, it is clear that GMC would have a separate law.
As per the RBP’s report, crime rates in Bhutan from 2019 to 2023 exhibit a fluctuating pattern with notable trends. In 2019, the crime rate stood at 55, significantly dropping to 41 in 2020 and 37 in 2021. It says, this decline, amounting to a 32.7% reduction over the two years, may have been influenced by the global COVID-19 pandemic, during which lockdowns and movement restrictions likely contributed to fewer opportunities for crime. However, in 2022, the crime rate increased to 46, possibly due to the easing of pandemic restrictions and a resurgence in social and economic activities. The trend reversed again in 2023, with the crime rate falling to 34, the lowest in five years, primarily attributed to the change in recording practice by the Royal Bhutan Police.

By Tashi Namgyal, Thimphu