Police in Ho Chi Minh City have submitted a proposal for the re-establishment of a specialized crime fighting unit which had gained popularity decades ago as being particularly vigilant against lawlessness.
The municipal Department of Police has asked the Ministry of Public Security for permission to recreate the ‘Thief Hunters’ crime fighting force, a unit well known for excellent performance in ensuring social order and security.
The team was originally formed back in 1975, during the country’s first days after independence, to fight the war on crime, including armed gangs, murderers, thieves, and kidnappers.
Members of the special unit, all required to be under 30 years old, were granted many privileges in their selection of weaponry and use of certain methods of apprehending offenders.
'Thief Hunters' were allowed to ride their motorcycles at maximum speed and were considered above the law when it came to following traffic signals and regulations.
Additionally, while in pursuit of wanted criminals, the ‘hunters’ were permitted to shoot down their targets after two warning shots.
During the 1970s and 80s, many prominent names including Vo Tan Thanh, Mai Van Tan, Ly Dai Bang, and many others created the hard-nosed reputation for the ‘Thief Hunters’ following their outstanding crime-fighting accomplishments.
During an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Colonel Mai Van Tan, a former police official at the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Police and former member of the 'Thief Hunter' unit, expressed his pride in the team’s golden age.
“Through appointed missions and designated authority, the unit showed no mercy toward the law breakers,” Col. Tan recalled.
“However, the team was disbanded after several amendments to the law were made, rendering it impractical,” the former police official explained.
Since law and regulations are now more complete, everybody in the public is equal, resulting in law enforcers expected to strictly comply with laws and regulations while performing their duties, said a former member of the ‘Thief Hunters.’
Modern version of ‘Thief Hunters’
Criminal activities in Ho Chi Minh City started becoming complicated in early 2008, when illegal crime rings from all over the country began moving their operations to the city, causing fear in the public eye.
To counter the organized crime moving into the area, leaders of the Department of Police moved to set up a task force to deal with the situation.
Members of the task force are assigned to regular patrol on city streets and in vulnerable areas.
They are also authorized to perform administrative checks on suspects, ambush law breakers, and catch violators red-handed, according to a police official.
The team, which includes a young generation of driven officers led by several veterans with years of experience in the original crime fighting unit, has become a terror to many offenders in the city thanks to their rapid response.
However, powers granted to the current anti-crime force are considered limited compared to those in the past.
If the ‘Thief Hunters’ unit is re-established, its members will have to strictly comply with current laws, according to Vu Quang Duc, member of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association.
Certain regulations and limitations are established to prevent law enforcers from abusing their powers and compromising the legitimate rights and interests of both innocent citizens and suspects, the lawyer elaborated.
In order for the team to reach its full potential in current security situations, specific resolutions on functions, responsibility, training expenses, allowances, and incentive mechanisms for the law enforcers must be set up, said Ha Hai, another member of the association.
“Sharpening professional skills and expertise, as well as evaluating the moral character of the officers, should be prioritized,” Hai asserted.