Cops plan to fight crime with hazy pictures

Anyone boarding or alighting from a crowded local train at Dadar railway station may be on their best behaviour upon spotting uniformed railway police force (RPF) officials focussing on them with cameras, but the efforts of these men in uniform may just be a waste of time, effort and tax-payers’ money.

Mano ya na mano: Hemangini Naidu in her perennially air conditioned flat.Hemangini Naidu in her perennially air conditioned flat.Hemangini Naidu in her perennially air conditioned flat. Pic/Rane Ashish

As part of a security-enhancing measure initially being implemented at Dadar station, three railway police officials have been playing paparazzi with commuters and video taping them at Dadar station. However, all they have to show for their efforts are the backs of the people they focus on or very hazy footage.

The RPF staff of the Central Railway (CR) have been instructed to click commuters boarding and alighting from local trains and around 25 high-end digital cameras, each costing around Rs 14,000, will be procured for the purpose.

Out of focus: One of the three railway police officials assigned the task of photographing commuters as they alight and board trains at Dadar station 

The objective behind the elaborate security measure is to gather footage to be used to identify troublemakers, known thieves, chain snatchers and unscrupulous elements travelling on locals, and then track their movements whenever they are spotted at the stations.

“Although we realise that at times we will only be able to capture the backs of the commuters, it still acts as a deterrent to unscrupulous elements boarding or alighting a train,” said a railway cop on condition of anonymity.

The cops claim that they will be placing men armed with cameras near foot over bridges at the station for better coverage of the platforms.
“We have distributed photographs of small-time criminals and chain snatchers who tend to operate on crowded trains. In case we manage to capture them on camera while they alight, we can keep an eye on their activities,” said another RPF officer.

The statistics of crimes on local trains and platforms, including chain snatching, has increased over the years. According to RPF officials, a criminal usually conducts a recce of the platform from where he or she intends to board a train. They also identify their targets from a vantage point and then make sure they stand behind them during rush hour, before snatching valuables and alighting at the next station.

Each day on average, 10 to 20 cases involving such crimes are registered in the city. The drive is being carried out as a pilot project at Dadar railway station, and the officials will decide on implementation at other stations after reviewing the results.

Alok Bohra, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner (RPF), CR, said, “We will be procuring another 25 such cameras in the next two months. Mostly the ladies compartments will be covered and if there are complaints from those coaches, we can check the videos and identify the culprits.”

Such crimes follow a trend and have been known to be high on public holidays and Sundays.

If the RPF personnel are to be believed, the offenders target passengers in sarees and open neck tops.

G L Bhandare, Deputy Commissioner of Police (GRP), said that he does not approve of the method being employed to catch offenders.

“We are doing similar work, but doubt whether videography in the ladies coaches will help to trace offenders. At times, criminals wear burqas thereby making it difficult to identify them.”

Bhandare added that some other method should be employed instead. “We have not used any of the videos recorded so far to solve any case, but when required we will surely ask them [RPF officials] for the same,” Bhandare said.  

From January 2012, crimes like chain snatching and bag lifting have been included under the head of robbery. The cases under this head are registered under Section 392, which attracts imprisonment of upto seven years. However, earlier it was registered under Section 379 and as there was no serious penalty, offenders used to get out easily.

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