The Maldives Police Service (MPS) launched a special operation in the capital Malé last night in response to a spike in cases of theft and robbery in recent weeks.
At a press conference this morning, Chief Superintendent Ali Shujau explained that the number of cases reported in the past two weeks had risen sharply compared to the previous five months.
Shujau, head of the central operations command, said that burglars had taken advantage of police officers being engaged in providing security during the recently concluded AFC Challenge Cup hosted by the Maldives.
Large amounts of cash and expensive items have been stolen from apartments in the capital, he added.
Police also expected a spike in theft and robbery during the upcoming World Cup and the fasting month of Ramadan, Shujau noted, advising the public to take precautionary measures.
Police officers will conduct targeted searches of areas in Malé and search vehicles as well as suspicious individuals after midnight as part of the special operation.
Vehicle checkpoints will be set up across the capital. As apartments on the first and second floors of large buildings were being targeted, police patrols will focus on preventing theft from such residences.
The special operation is being conducted jointly by the central operations command, investigation departments, forensic directorate, traffic police, and the Specialist Operations (SO) command.
The MPS has also advised the public to hide valuables such as phones, jewellery, and wristwatches and to properly lock doors at night. Businesses were advised against keeping large amounts of cash in shops or offices.
According to statistics from the MPS, 2,484 cases of theft and 291 cases of robbery have been reported so far this year.
A 46 percent spike in cases of theft was recorded in January this year compared to the same period in 2013.
Reported instances of theft had increased dramatically in 2012 compared to the previous year. While 4,734 cases of theft were reported in 2011, the number rose to 6,572 in 2012, which represented a 38 percent annual increase.
The figure climbed to 6,681 in 2013.
Robbery and theft currently account for roughly 50 percent of crimes reported to police.