The Crime Branch (CB) (Unit III) busted a well-organised gang of six bag-lifters hailing from Gujarat yesterday afternoon, including the mastermind of the group.
The police managed to zero in on the gang after over 20 cases of people losing bags containing money near banks were reported at various places of the city in the last few months.
Those arrested have been identified as Pankaj Jawahar Macharekar (31), Vipul Garange (37), Manoj Sevani (32), Raju Kametia (57), Nilesh Bhogekar (35) and Jagdish Rathod.
Kingpin in the bag
The police said that Macharekar was the kingpin of the gang and, in 2010, the CB officials arrested him and nine associates in a similar case. After getting out on bail, he recruited new members and went back to his old ways.
“We received a tip-off that the gang was in Pune and was planning to target victims at a bank in Nigdi on Wednesday afternoon. We laid a trap and arrested six people, including Macharekar. We also seized cash worth Rs 13 lakh and gold and silver ornaments and other valuables worth Rs 40,000 from an SUV in which they had come to the bank,” said Police Inspector Sunil Pawar of the Crime Branch (Unit III).
Pawar added that the gang would first decide which bank to target and then keep a watch on people arriving and leaving after withdrawing cash. They used to target those persons who they saw entering banks without anything, and leaving with big bags.
One member of the gang would then drop a few currency notes near the car of their target and then approach the driver’s window and tap on the glass to get his or her attention. Once the surprised victim got out of the car to pick up the money, another member would stealthily grab the bag from inside the vehicle and escape from the scene.
The other method used by the gang was to throw a little water or dust on the owner of the target bag and offer to wipe it off. Before the unsuspecting victim would realise what was happening, the so-called Good Samaritan would grab the bag and flee.
“Sometimes they would cut the panes of vehicles with a glass cutter and steal bags from within,” said Pawar. Pawar added that so far, 31 cases of bag lifting have taken place in the city in the last two months, which, the police suspect, the gang is responsible for. The gang evaded suspicion whenever they came to the city from Gujarat by moving around in their SUV and not checking into an lodges or hotels. Once that made a good enough haul, they used to return to Gujarat. Other crime branch sleuths involved in tracking down the gang include API Jalindhar Tandale, police personnel Arun Surve, Ashok Bhosale, Jitendra Abhangrao, Gunshilan Rangam, Mahendra Pawar and Sanjay Gaware.