Mumbai: Unarmed cops on highway to catch chain-snatchers!

Junior officers scoff at new DCP’s bizarre idea to post constables on dividers along a 15-km stretch on the Western Express Highway to spot, chase and catch criminals speeding away on bikes (while they give chase on foot)

Troubled by a spate of chain-snatching incidents in western suburbs, the local DCP came up with this bizarre solution — he has posted a constable at every flyover in his jurisdiction on the Western Express Highway (WEH) to stop the crooks in action. But here’s the punchline — armed with just a lathi, the constables are supposed to stop the chain-snatchers from speeding away on their bikes at 100-120 kmph by standing in the middle of the highway or chasing after them on foot.

Armed with nothing but a lathi, the constables, like this one posted at the Goregaon flyover, are expected to stop crooks from speeding away on their bikes. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Armed with nothing but a lathi, the constables, like this one posted at the Goregaon flyover, are expected to stop crooks from speeding away on their bikes. Pics/Nimesh Dave

“These constables are posted only to increase our visibility on the WEH, where the striking rate of the chain snatchers are higher. In my zone, a stretch of around 15 km on the WEH is affected by chain and bag snatching cases. The motorbike-borne snatchers strike female commuters in autos, especially at the starting points of the flyovers where the autos usually slow down,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone XII) M Ramkumar, who has identified nine such hotpots between Goregaon and Dahisar.

Constables are expected to stand in the way of chain-snatchers by, well, standing in the middle of the highway, or chasing after the bike-borne crooks on foot
Constables are expected to stand in the way of chain-snatchers by, well, standing in the middle of the highway, or chasing after the bike-borne crooks on foot

Constables have already been deployed at five of these spots, and more will be posted at the remaining four in the coming days. These are constables from seven police stations — Dindoshi, Aarey Sub, Vanrai, Kurar, Samta Nagar, Kasturba and Dahisar. When mid-day visited one such constable posted at the start of the Dindoshi flyover, sitting on a plastic stool next to the divider, with nothing but an umbrella to protect him from the elements. The speed of passing traffic alone was enough to blow the stool and umbrella away.

Understandably, the cops are not pleased. “We have to do it, as it is an order from our superior, but it is the most bizarre idea I have ever heard of. It is a clear atrocity on the constable who will have to sit in the middle of the busy highway. More importantly, how is it going to help when there is actually a chain-snatching occurring there?” questioned an officer from Kasturba police station.

DCP Ramkumar is adamant that the initiative be followed strictly, and has asked the senior inspectors at each police station to ensure that the constable turn up for duty on time. He has even instructed the seniors to click pictures of the constables every day and WhatsApp it to him.

Another officer from Samta Nagar police station said, “There are so many loopholes in this initiative. In such heat, how will the constable stay in the middle of the road? Think about him — where will he go to find water, food or a toilet? The senior inspector has a lot of work around the clock, and now he will have to go to the spot click pictures and send it to the DCP. I will ask my constable to take a picture and WhatsApp it to me. Then I will forward it to the DCP.”

In the DCP’s own words, the initiative is about police ‘visibility’.

Cops under him believe it is all just eyewash. “On the highway, small and heavy vehicles move at such high speeds and can blow away the umbrella. Not only can the constable faint in the heat, but if the umbrella falls on the highway or motorists, it can cause deadly accidents. The initiative has been implemented without using brains or proper study,” was the biting criticism from an inspector from Kurar police station.

Instead, he suggested: “Patrolling on bikes should be increased and cops should be deployed in the narrow lanes where chain-snatchings occur. On the highway, the chain-snatchers are too fast on their bikes to be chased down anyway.”

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