If you were under the impression that the busy cluster of temples in the heart of Matunga is frequented only by the pious and the devout, think again – statistics reveal that the suburb is now the favourite haunt of petty thieves. According to numbers obtained by MiD DAY, Matunga tops the list of localities plagued by chain snatchers, from among 93 police jurisdictions. In the month of June alone, 36 episodes of the crime were reported in the jurisdiction of Matunga police station.
A senior police inspector of the station could not deny that his jurisdiction is fast becoming notorious for the crime, saying, “I am warned every day by my superiors to keep the chain snatching under control, and we have been taking measures to do so.”
Kanyaka Parmeshwari Temple
Thakur blamed the phenomenon to the concentration of temples, marriage halls and public parks in his area, making it thickly populated with locals and visitors alike. Ten days into July, five cases of chain snatching have already been reported.
Asthika Samaj Temple
Matunga is a veritable worship hub, dotted with as many as 15 temples -- the noted ones being Ram Mandir, Kanyaka Parmeshwari Temple and Lord Shankar Temple at Telang Road, Marubai Gaondevi Temple at Nathalal Parekh Marg, Asthika Samaj Temple on Bhandarkar Marg. Several Jain temples are also situated in the central suburb. Apart from the religious installations, Matunga is graced by four drama theatres, 16 halls, eight colleges, 12 schools and several playgrounds, including the picturesque Five Gardens.
“We are not blaming the pedestrians who walk on the street, but awareness is also important. Public places are hotbeds of petty theft and chain snatching, and those who frequent this area should avoid wearing expensive valuables,” said an officer from Matunga police station.
Compounding the problem is a maze of narrow, criss-crossing lanes and bylanes spread across Matunga, allowing the chain snatchers to make a quick getaway after yanking the valuables off unsuspecting pedestrians. Officials allege that the bike-borne chain snatchers are too swift for them, making it impossible for them to makes arrests on the spot. “Investigations are the only way to trace them, and our sleuthing has revealed that most of the culprits hail from Dharavi, Antop Hill, Byculla and Nagpada.
Blink and miss
“The lanes are interconnected and each ultimately leads to the Eastern Express Highway. Once they hit the highway, they disappear in a matter of seconds,” said an exasperated officer from Matunga police station.
The cops claimed that shortage of manpower has also exacerbated the problem. Each of the 15 temples should be kept under the watchful eyes of three to four policemen. “With our given strength, if we depute three of our staff at each temple, it will be impossible for us to man the other public places. Our records reveal that most of the incidents take place in the morning and evening hours, when people visit the temples,” revealed a cop.
The cops have put up boards at almost every bend, and next to temples and halls, asking residents to beware of chain snatchers and guard their cherished objects. Nakabandis have also been arranged in several lanes throughout the day. Plain-clothes policemen have been stationed to keep a watch on crowded spots atop their bikes, to give chase at the first hint of another theft. This hawk-eyed vigil, however, is yet to pay off, as no chain snatcher has been caught in the act so far.
Additional Commissioner of Police Pravin Salunkhe said, “The area has faced incidents of chain snatching. We have requested permission to place CCTVs outside the hotspots. Our cops are roaming these places round the clock, in civil attire. The chain snatchers are mostly history-sheeters. The area has a network of small lanes, allowing the snatchers to escape swiftly. We are regularly keeping nakabandis.”
'They were gone in seconds’
Seeta Mahalaxmi decided to mark her marriage anniversary on June 21 with a trip to a temple near the Matunga Flower Market. She said, “I was waiting for a taxi when two people approached on a Pulsar, both had helmets on.
They snatched the chain within seconds. I shouted out but they disappeared within seconds.” Srinivas Kamble, resident of Telang Road, said, “These temples here are very old and are visited by many every day. The temple authorities should deploy guards at the temples and guide the devotees. Also, the police personnel should organise talks and lectures for residents to address the issue and spread awareness.”