Mumbai Crime: 10 thefts in a month turn residents into watchmen

Members from various societies in Badlapur East are forming groups to patrol their areas following 10 robberies — five of which occurred on Feb 10 — in the last one month

A sudden spurt in robberies across Badlapur (East) in the last one month is giving sleepless nights to the locals, who are now taking turns to keep vigil outside their respective societies.

Naresh Kharat was one of the five victims whose residence was targeted in the wee hours of February 10
Naresh Kharat was one of the five victims whose residence was targeted in the wee hours of February 10

The worst affected is the Mauli Nagar society, near old Kartap Road, whose residents have formed a group of 16 that patrols the area every night ever since the society witnessed four break-ins in the wee hours of February 10. The decade-old society comprises 150 flats, distributed across eight wings.

Residents of Mauli Nagar society, including Shrikant Shinde (in black sweatshirt), patrolling their area on Monday night
Residents of Mauli Nagar society, including Shrikant Shinde (in black sweatshirt), patrolling their area on Monday night

When this correspondent visited the society on Monday at 11.45 pm, a group of 50 people, most of whom were armed with lathis, were seen patrolling the area. What has compounded the matter is the limited patrolling done by the police, who claim to be facing manpower crunch.

Victims speak
Narrating his ordeal, A-wing resident Naresh Kharat said, “We woke up after hearing a loud thud. And what we saw next — five masked men starring at us — scared the living daylights out us. Two others were guarding the door. They threatened us with a knife and ordered us in Hindi to handover whatever gold and cash we had at home. They took away 40 grams of gold, Rs 80,000 and my cellphone. Before leaving, one of them placed a knife on my daughter’s throat and warned us of dire consequences if we opened our mouth. I begged him to spare her life. None of us could sleep properly after that night. So we decided to visit our hometown for a few days.”

Kharat, who works as a gardener at BMC headquarters, is physically challenged. He said the incident had scared the family to such an extent that they — Kharat, his wife and two children — left for their hometown in Baramati and returned on Tuesday.

Another A-wing resident, Shrikant Shinde, a BMC schoolteacher, said, “My father passed away on January 31 following which we went to our native place to perform final rites. When we returned home on February 10, the apartment was ransacked. Thieves stole gold (30 gm) and cash (Rs 70,000).”

Shinde said he discovered about four more robberies in the area, including the one at Kharat residence, when he went to register a complaint at the police station. He also mentioned about a robbery in the adjacent society, Valkunji, where the dacoits tied the entire Akal family before decamping with the booty.

Division of labour
Commenting on the vigil kept by the residents, Siddeshwar Gawde from A-wing said, “This sudden rise (in robberies) has stunned us all, which has resulted in a fear psychosis among the residents. Initially, one member from every family was part of the patrolling team. But we realised that it was impossible to continue like this, as we have to report to work the next morning. Then we decided to take turns. So now, two volunteers from each of the eight wings patrol the area with volunteers from adjacent societies.”

B-wing resident Amol Ohal said he has transformed his second-floor apartment into a fortress by installing motion censors, CCTV cameras and a heavy-duty safety door. “We stay awake the whole night fearing that we could be the next victims. Every stranger or an unknown vehicle in the area is looked at with suspicion,” he added.

Cops speak
Speaking to mid-day, DCP (Ulhasnagar division) Vasant Jadhav said he was aware about locals patrolling the areas and said they were police mitra (police friends), jointly working with the cops. “About five robberies were reported in a single day. Since then we have increased patrolling in the area. The police mitra are helping us as we are understaffed. A few suspects were picked up during the course of investigation, but were let off for lack of evidence.”

Senior Inspector D N Patil from Badlapur East police station said, “Residents and police are working together to tackle this menace. People have also started installing CCTV cameras to keep an eye on the happenings in their areas.”

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