How do you spot an upscale neighbourhood? If you’re in Karachi, the usual factors to consider are the number of cars with government and diplomatic license plates, number of houses with tents for guards outside and the presence of city’s who’s who at the neighbourhood parks. By these standards, Defence and Clifton have been the go-to posh locales of the city, ever since properties in Mohammad Ali Society and KDA stopped getting regular renovations. But, in recent months, the already expensive real estate in Defence and Clifton has gotten even pricier; whether for purchase or for rent. And this time around, the reasons behind the hike in demand are much more sinister. According to Shahid Aleem, the President of the Defence and Clifton Association of Real Estate Agents, “both property prices and rental rates for properties in Defence and Clifton have nearly doubled in recent months.” The representative of the area’s real estate agents attributed the spike in rates to an exodus of residents of other areas such as Saddar, Kharadar and Lyari. “Many established traders have been living in those areas for decades and own properties worth a lot of money. But, persistently rising crime rates, extortion and load shedding are driving these people to posh locales in ever-increasing numbers,” he explained. Even the relative calm of these residential areas of the violence-prone city are not entirely immune. “It’s not a gated community that can guarantee safety,” said Kashif Ahmed, a bank employee who recently moved into a rented house in Phase VI DHA along with his family. He recalled that barely a month after the move, a grenade exploded outside a wine shop near their residence. But, even law enforcers agree that the rate of violent crime in Defence and Clifton is significantly lower than in adjoining Saddar Town, Lyari and the Old City Area. The daily reports at police stations in these areas are often filled with complaints about car and mobile snatching, armed robbery and even murder. So as property prices and rents in Defence and Clifton are surging, the trend simply highlights the sense of insecurity prevailing among citizens of the country’s commercial hub and largest metropolis.