Cyber crime complaints are rising in Pune: Experts

Experts say personnel from a dedicated police station could have helped identify perpetrators and prevent the violence; proposal has languished for more than three years despite three such stations being approved for Pune

The defamatory posts on Facebook and the retaliatory violence that the city saw yesterday and on Saturday have once again exposed a major loophole in the policing network —  IT hub Pune lacks a dedicated cyber police station.

Shattered: A PMPML bus vandalised by protestors in the violence, which began on Saturday night and went on till yesterday. PIC/Mohan patil

This stark omission has ensured that the police continue to grapple to keep vigilance even as anti-social elements continue in their crusade to spread hatred between religious groups.

Distorted view: Officials say messaging applications like Whatsapp have become a major nuisance when it comes to maintaining law and order as well as investigating matters in which the privacy of an individual has been breached to stalk him or her. Pics/Mohan Patil

Cyber crime investigators are of the view that if such a dedicated police force had existed, it could have helped prevent the riot-like situation that prevailed in the city for more than 24 hours.

Niranjan Reddy, a consultant with the Pune police’s Cyber Crime Cell (CCC), said,  “A dedicated cyber police station could have helped the police take quick action against the anti-social elements who uploaded the objectionable content on Facebook. The difference in investigations between officers of the cyber crime cell and officers from a dedicated cyber crime police station can be compared to the difference in treatment at a general clinic and a super-specialty hospital.”

Cases rising
When it comes to the spreading of inflammatory messages, instant messaging applications like Whatsapp have proved to be a major headache for the police. Even earlier, the police had received complaints of derogatory and defamatory messages being forwarded but, fortunately, no untoward incident had been reported. These warnings, however, were not enough for the police department to move forward with their more than 3-year-old proposal to start a cyber police station in the city.

“In 2013, the Cyber Crime Cell (CCC) of Pune police received two complaints pertaining to sensitive messages being uploaded and forwarded through Whatsapp. The number of such complaints is on the rise this year too,” said Police Inspector Sushma Chavan of CCC.

“We have witnessed an increase in cyber crime complaints, especially those related to profile photos of girls being morphed and circulated on Whatsapp. Mischief-makers just get hold of the girl’s number and download her profile photos. After social networking sites, messaging applications like Whatsapp have become a major nuisance for police when it comes to maintaining law and order as well as investigating matters in which the privacy of an individual has been breached to stalk him/her,” said Reddy.

Other side
Asked about the status of the proposal to set up special cyber crime police stations in the city, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Economic Offenses and Cyber Crime) Rajesh Bansode said, “We will talk on this issue later”.

The approximate number of buses vandalised by protestors

Did you know?
Bangalore has a cyber crime police station since 2001

Differences galore

Experts say that while the Cyber Crime Cell exists, it cannot complete all the functions of a cyber crime police station. Officers are sent to the cell on deputation and are then transferred to other police stations. They often also lack the requisite training and technical know-how. “Besides, citizens have to, so far, lodge a cyber crime complaint at a regular police station and then the Cyber Crime Cell picks it up based on importance. With a dedicated cyber crime police station, however, citizens can lodge FIRs directly and expect trained personnel to act on them,” said a cyber security expert.

The Pune police have appealed to all Punekars to refrain from forwarding morphed pictures and inflammatory content from their cellphones.

A message is being circulated by the Pune police, saying, “There is peace in Pune city. Police bandobast is deployed. People should not believe in rumours. Contact on No. 100 — CP Pune.”

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