Midnight auto thief caught at dawn

For months together, Om Chaurasia helped stranded passengers near Kurla station reach their destinations between midnight and 4 am by ferrying them on an autorickshaw. Only, these were not his vehicles but different ones he stole every night. He was arrested after he was caught driving a three wheeler which had been reported as missing

Many people residing in and around Kurla would thank Om Chaurasia for being a saviour. The 25-year-old would always be found near Kurla station after midnight, ferrying commuters short distances when no other transport was available. He would ply his auto till 4 am and park it at a designated spot. A noble soul one would think. The only problem: Chaurasia wasn’t using his own vehicles. He would steal an auto for a few hours every night, ply passengers short distances, make his money and quietly park the vehicle before its rightful owner arrived to drive it at 5 am.

Mumbai crime: Midnight auto thief nabbed
The Kurla police arrested Om Chaurasia on January 8 

The Kurla police, which, arrested him on the night of January 8, said his arrest has solved the mystery of the temporarily missing autos in the Kurla area. “We had received a few complaints of missing autos in the past several weeks. The autos would always be found a little distance away from where the owners claimed to have parked it the previous night. It was a baffling mystery to us since thieves seldom returned vehicles in this manner,” said an investigating officer. Chaurasia is now cooling his heels in prison. He was smart but not quite.

The 25-year-old had also chosen a good place for his illegal nocturnal business — a particular street in Kurla where several auto drivers parked their vehicles for the night. Chaurasia knew the drivers’ shifts began at 5 am and would always return the three wheelers before that.

But one day last week, a passenger delayed him by several minutes and by the time he returned, the auto’s owner was frantically looking for his vehicle. A crowd comprising fellow auto drivers, tired of their vehicles constantly disappearing and then reappearing, had gathered. Scared, Chaurasia parked it at a distance and fled.

An officer from Kurla police station said, “Things were working out fine for Chaurasia till he slipped up in the first week of January and failed to park the auto rickshaw on time. The owner lodged a complaint with the police station immediately and we laid a trap for him.”

Chaurasia, however, didn’t lie low for a few days, leading to his arrest. He escaped once more. However, the auto he stole ran out of CNG mid way and he abandoned it on a street beyond the Kurla police jurisdiction. By now the cops were hot on his trail and had started questioning several auto rickshaw drivers. “A team consisting police sub-inspector Tukaram Koyande and constables Kamble, Mugle, Magaukar, Sutar and Shingare lay in wait and finally, on the night of January 8, came across a rickshaw, which had just been reported as missing. They stopped the driver and started questioning him. During questioning, the accused fumbled and finally confessed,” said the officer. Chaurasia has been booked under sections 379 (theft) of the Indian Penal Code and remanded to jail custody.

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