BEIRUT -- Theft, mugging and armed robberies have reached unprecedented levels in areas of Lebanon where Hizbullah wields outsized influence, drawing the ire of the Lebanese, the majority of whom are living below the poverty line.
Individuals on motorcycles or bicycles have snatched pedestrians' mobile phones or purses, and others have robbed shops and broken into cars, residents say.
Since April, social media sites have abounded with posts from residents complaining about being the victims of such acts, especially in Hizbullah's southern suburb stronghold (Dahye) in Beirut.
Residents have criticised the state of lawlessness in those areas and urged the Lebanese security forces to intervene and put an end to the robberies and thefts.
Samih Matar, who lives in the Moawad district of Dahye, said cooking gas cylinders were stolen from his balcony. He and his wife both have been mugged in recent months.
"The security situation in Dahye has become unbearable with the unprecedented increase in burglaries and armed robberies," he told Al-Mashareq.
In December, a youth riding a motorcycle snatched Matar's phone from his hand after stopping, supposedly to ask for directions, Matar said.
Then in March, somebody stole Matar's car -- parked in front of his residence -- and on the same day, a robber snatched his wife's purse as she was about to enter a store, he said.
'Hizbullah protects theft'
Iran-backed Hizbullah has a near-monopoly over Dahye's security and rarely allows government security forces to enforce authority in the area.
A Hizbullah opponent living in the southern suburb who did not wish to be named said the increasingly unsafe conditions in Dahye and the Baalbek-Hermel province -- another one of Hizbullah's strongholds -- is due to the party providing protection to those involved in theft and contraband trade.
Hizbullah facilitates car thefts by granting the perpetrators party-issued documents so they will not be stopped at the Dahr al-Baydar checkpoint or the Lebanese-Syrian border crossing, he said.
The stolen cars are taken into Syria and sold there in whole, or they are taken apart and their parts are used for the party's military vehicles, he said.
In other words, "car theft networks are organised and operate in co-ordination with party officials on the ground".
Residents of Hizbullah's strongholds also complain about the large number of drug users and Captagon traders in their areas, said the source.
The traders are Hizbullah-affiliated businessmen who smuggle Captagon from Syria to Lebanon and on to the rest of the Arab region, he said.
They traffic these illicit drugs at nightclubs and universities in Lebanon, often using women for such operations, he added.
Saudi authorities have in the past six years foiled attempts to smuggle more than 600 million amphetamine pills coming from Lebanon alone, Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control spokesman Maj. Mohammed al-Nujaidi said in March.
He accused the "Hizbullah terrorist militia" of being "the main source smuggling them and manufacturing them".
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Captagon has been manufactured mostly in Lebanon and Syria.
It has been widely used by combatants in Syria's war, where Hizbullah is fighting in support of the regime in clear violation of Lebanon's policy of dissociation from regional conflicts.
Agricultural crops stolen in the south
The current lawlessness "is not confined to Hizbullah's stronghold in Dahye in Beirut", said Shia dissident Hussein Ezzeddine.
Rather, he said, "it has spread to other areas of the party's influence in various regions of the south and the Bekaa, where robbery, kidnapping for ransom and murders have reached an alarming level".
"Dahye has become a place that is foreign to Lebanon, as it looks like a canton for drugs, prostitution and immoral acts," said Ezzeddine.
The situation in the south "is not much different; need-driven petty theft is common there too", he said.
Thefts of old cars, agricultural crops and equipment, and gas cylinders from balconies are common occurrences in the south, according to Ezzeddine.
So is kidnapping for ransom in the Bekaa, he said, with Hizbullah getting a portion of the ransom money by mediating between the kidnappers and families of the kidnapped.
The time has come to deal with Hizbullah's lawless weapons, which have allowed the spread of illegal activities at the hands of gangs affiliated with the party, Ezzeddine said.
Popular protests have been ongoing in Lebanon to demand the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1559.
The resolution calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon -- including Hizbullah -- and affirms Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the government.