MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. In Kabul, the Afghan capital, car theft is a relatively rare occurrence, but fears remain that militants could use stolen vehicles as car bombs so police have turned to a rather controversial tactic to deter thieves. From Kabul, NPR's Sean Carberry reports.
SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: On a recent evening, a guest left our office only to discover two of his car tires had been punctured. Moments later, my producer discovered two of his tires had been punctured. Both cars were parked on the side of the street in front of our office. And it didn't take long to find out that the police were responsible.
NESAR AHMAD ABDULRAHIMZAI: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: Nesar Ahmad Abdulrahimzai, the police chief for our district, refused to meet in person, but gave an explanation over the phone.
ABDULRAHIMZAI: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: The police puncture tires as precautionary measures, he says. The police are poorly equipped and may simply have no other option to prevent car theft, he says. So, Abdulrahimzai has instructed his officers to puncture tires of cars parked on the street after dark. It seems rather extreme considering he says only two cars have been stolen in the district in the last six months.
To our surprise, we've heard that many city residents support the policy, though they probably have off-street parking. But there are plenty of complaints as well.
ZOHEB STANIKZAI: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: Nineteen-year-old student Zoheb Stanikzai says he has nowhere to park his car except on the street.
STANIKZAI: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: I've complained and given the police a letter saying I'm responsible for my car, he says. But to no avail. He's already spent more than $500 on new tires, and the police won't reimburse him. Mechanics like Musafir Nabizadah are quite happy with the policy.
MUSAFIR NABIZADAH: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: When tires are punctured more than once, which the police do, he says, the owner has to change the tire, which costs a lot for him. Nabizadah says it's a good policy because it keeps he city safer and it gave him a rush of business when the policy went into effect a few weeks ago.
HAMIDULLAH ATAEE: Actually, this is very stupid.
CARBERRY: Hamidullah Ataee is a former prosecutor who has had four tires punctured. He says this practice is illegal under Afghan law and the victims are legally parked when their cars are effectively vandalized. Police officers counter that by saying they have gone door to door warning people their tires would be punctured.
ATAEE: They don't do their job, but instead they puncture the tires and misuse their authority.
ZAHER ZAHER: (Speaking foreign language)
CARBERRY: Zaher Zaher, Kabul City police chief, says he opposes the policy. He says it's part of a pattern of officers abusing their power.
ZAHER: (Through interpreter) I apologize to those who have suffered from this problem.
CARBERRY: He says he will stop it, though his spokesman later said puncturing tires is reasonable. In the meantime, some police officers appear to be moderating their tactics. The other night while driving home, I saw an officer next to a parked car letting the air out of the tire's valve. Sean Carberry, NPR News, Kabul.
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