While the city police had so far been focused on fighting crimes against children, cops have now turned their attention to the other side of the coin — children who have chosen a life of crime themselves. With the city witnessing an alarming rise in the number of juvenile criminals, city police commissioner Satish Mathur announced special squads —titled Bal Sena — in every police station to tackle the issue.
That juvenile crime is a growing menace is clear from the statistics from the Social Security Cell, which revealed that in the past ten months alone, 411 children under the age of 18 had been detained for various offences. Pic/Thinkstock
During the announcement, the police not only released the latest figures for juvenile crime in the city, but also revealed the startling motives that these young culprits often had. In a majority of cases, cops said they had observed that kids were inspired by Bollywood and Marathi movies, as well as crime serials and media coverage on television. The other motives most commonly seen were the desire for easy money, and sometimes, plain curiosity.
That this is a growing menace is clear from the statistics from the Social Security Cell, which revealed that in the past ten months alone, 411 children under 18 had been detained for various crimes, a stark rise when compared to the 367 who were held through 2013.
The most significant increase was seen in cheating offences, swelling from 1 case in 2013 to 17 this year. In cases of bodily offences such as murder and attempt to murder, the numbers rose to 70, while in atrocities against women, cases of molestation have increased from 1 to 31 this year.
Clearly, the commissioner’s decision to instate the new squads could not have come sooner. “I have directed all the police stations in my jurisdiction that each of them must have a senior police inspector, one lady constable and a male constable to lead the squads that will not only handle such cases, but will also patrol in areas with higher density of children, such as educational institutions.”
Based on the patrols, the cops will also identify where incidents of juvenile crime are more rampant, enabling area-mapping and analysis. Pointing to another worrying trend, Inspector Sanjay Nikam, in-charge of the Social Security Cell, said that younger kids were also getting involved in criminal activities now. “Till last year, mostly children aged between 16 to 18 were involved in heinous crimes, but now we see even children as young as 14 years getting involved. During investigations, we have learned that the children are often inspired by Bollywood action and romantic movies, and even crime serials and media coverage of crime on TV.”
Equally common are the cases in which children turn to crime lured by money, or simply to sate their curiosity. “In many cases, we realised that they committed crimes out of curiosity. In other cases, they committed theft or robbery to earn quick money. School and college students are attracted to expensive articles and often steal bikes and other items to show off to their friends, said, Senior Inspector Bhaupratap Barge, in-charge of the ATS.
Sometimes, however, children were also manipulated into crimes, said Barge. “Children are often used as carriers to smuggle illegal objects. They are lured with cash or gifts like mobile handsets or bikes and made to do the task. Such children do not even know whom they were working for, as their bosses use fake names,” added SPI Barge.
Cases of juvenile crime are tried under the provisions of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. When convicted, the offenders are sent to observation homes, instead of prisons. While this is done to ensure protection to the underage culprits, several are of the opinion that it does little to deter other children from committing crimes.
A senior lawyer, Sureshchandra Bhosale, said, “Reformative homes are more like hostels. The minors must realise that they have been sent there to pay for their crimes, and not to relax. The system must change. The Juvenile Justice Board should be headed by an experienced lady magistrate, and provisions must be made to compensate the victims and their family.
In addition, the criminals’ parents should be made to pay the cost for the reform homes, instead of using public money.” With the Union Cabinet deciding, earlier this year, to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, there are hopes that the scope of the law will be expanded to include more serious consequences for perpetrators of serious crimes.
411 The number of children under 18 who were detained for crimes since January
Citing one example of how movies can influence a child to commit crimes, cops pointed out an incident in which a 15-year-old was kidnapped by his classmate. The accused at first tried to extort Rs 50,000 in ransom, and then brutally murdered the victim. During investigations, the accused revealed that he had done it not just for the money, but because he and his accomplices were impressed the movie, Shootout at Lokhandwala and the prowess of a hoodlum portrayed by Vivek Oberoi. The accused confessed he was so taken by the character, he had the movie stored on his mobile and would watch it every day, trying to imitate his mannerisms.