If you chance upon a group brandishing lathis and canes during a late night stroll in the bylanes of Byculla and Mazgaon, you have no cause to retrace your steps. The bevy before you is most likely to be a bunch of local residents, losing sleep to keep their families and belongings safe. Over the last two weeks, inhabitants have been forced to keep nocturnal vigil, following a flurry of burglaries in the neighbourhood.
The first break-in happened at the residence of Devramjhi Mahadik on Dr Mascarenhas Road, Naryalwadi. “My family and I were visiting Chiplun in Konkan when I received a call about a burglary at my place; the offenders managed to flee with cash and valuables worth Rs 35,000,” said Mahadik. After this the thieves struck five more times. “They managed to loot Rs 7 lakh in cash and goods from the houses of Sammer Varhadkar and Maohiz Aktarwala,” said Avinash Jagtap, a local resident.
With police failing to deliver, youngsters from the area have taken up the cudgels. “We gather every night after dinner and patrol the area in shifts with lathis and bamboos,” said Raja Mhatre, another inhabitant of Naryalwadi. “The root of the problem appears to be the Bombay Port Trust colony that flanks our locality. Very few people stay in the two buildings over there, which are largely occupied by drug addicts and gamblers,” he added.
“The Byculla police, with jurisdiction over the area, is wary of visiting BPT colony as the druggies carry razors and have on occasions attacked cops,” said Jagtap. Residents say their hand has been forced. “We had approached the police several times, but only two FIRs have been registered so far, and till now cops have not sent any night squads to the area. The burglars first disable all the streetlights in the vicinity and then carry out the housebreakings under the cover of darkness,” said Raja Bhansode, another local inhabitant.
“If the residents assist us, we will nab the drug addicts,” said Lakhanlal Mathure, senior inspector of Byculla police station. “We have already apprehended two people, with the help of locals, and have recovered some valuables from them,” he added.