How Mumbai Police's 5-point plan reduced chain-snatching incidents in the city
From using stricter IPC sections to tech, how cops pulled the plug on the bike-borne menace
In July last year, when the Mumbai Police arrested one of the city's most notorious gang of robbers — the Highway gang — that disguised themselves as delivery boys for pizza joints and snatched chains of unsuspecting people on the Western Urban Road, they had made a major dent in the chain-snatching ring. The gang, which included Jafar Deshmukh, 38, alias Chikna and two others, had been active for over a year, and were connected with at least 123 incidents of chain snatching across the city. Yet, despite their unique modus operandi, which involved conducting a recce of the area to check for any police nakabandis and changing bike plate numbers, they failed to mislead the cops for too long.
Already five steps ahead of their game, the Mumbai Police had made it their mission to bring down chain-snatching incidents in the city. And, in this, they have succeeded. A report earlier this year revealed that within a short span of four years, chain snatching cases in the city have decreased by 92 per cent, with only 169 snatching cases being registered last year, as against 2,078 in 2013. In a first, the Mumbai Police reveals its five-point plan that helped them tackle the menace.
Between 2010 and 2013, chain-snatching incidents across the city hit the roof, with over 2,000 cases being reported annually. At the time, the then Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh felt there was an urgent need to nip the crime in the bud. As an immediate measure, an anti-snatching squad was formed, which was ordered to patrol the streets in the morning and carry out surprise checks at strategic points. "Most bikers would target their victims [mostly women] early in the morning, when the streets were deserted. Due to police presence, the crimes could not be executed effectively. Even if they did manage to snatch the chains, they were caught during nakabandi," said an official, on condition of anonymity. But, when the thieves got a whiff of the plan, they started committing the crime in the evenings instead. Their chicanery didn't last too long and the police managed to see through their ploy.
Grab of the CCTV footage that captured Jafar Deshmukh alias Chikna's gang in action
After the terror attacks in Mumbai, the police increased CCTV surveillance across the city. These cameras proved useful for the police, as they were not only able to track the bike numbers of these thieves, but also identify the culprits. In fact, as part of their modus operandi, the Highway gang would first hunt for CCTVs in the area, before committing the crime. Sources said, "They avoided committing the crime if CCTVs were spotted. Then, the rider and the pillion rider wore the same clothing that made them look like delivery boys to dodge the police," a police source had told mid-day last year. It was with the help of the CCTV footage that the police eventually managed to expose their strategy.
The Dindoshi Police recently arrested two people after coming across a CCTV grab of a senior citizen whose chain was snatched while she was entering the lift in her building
The Dindoshi Police recently arrested two people after coming across a CCTV grab of a senior citizen whose chain was snatched while she was entering the lift in her building. After the video went viral, the police contacted the victim, a 60-year-old woman and registered a case in the matter. The police later arrested Riyaz Shaikh, 33, and Akash Naik, 24.
Another significant decision by the police was booking the accused under Section 392 of Indian Penal Code, for robbery, which carries imprisonment of 10 to 14 years. "Under Section 392, one has to approach the sessions court for bail, which makes the process more difficult," said a deputy commissioner of police, requesting anonymity. The biggest jolt for the goons came when the Mahim Police slapped two chain snatchers, Bada Sajid and Aadam Mansuri, under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for the first time. It was Singh, who had instructed his men to invoke the stringent act against criminals involved in multiple cases. MCOCA can be applied if at least one member of an organised gang has two charge sheets registered against him. Mansuri alone had over 30 cases filed against him.
Another significant action came from Thane CP Parambir Singh in 2015, when his team raided the homes of the suspected chain snatchers in Kalyan, Dombivli, Mumbra and Bhiwandi. The accused allegedly committed the crimes in Mumbai and lived in the central suburbs, in order to evade surveillance. However, the informers had already tipped off the police. The Thane Police even checked the bank lockers of these criminals and found a lot of stolen booty, including gold weighing 2 kg.
During investigations, the police found out that most of the gangs in Mumbai and Thane committed crimes outside the city as well. Some of the accused arrested in 2015 from Thane, told the police that they had carried out chain snatchings in Solapur, Hyderabad, Karnataka and Indore. "Based on their tip-off, we reached out to cops in these regions and alerted them," said a deputy commissioner of police from 2013 to 2015.
One of the biggest success stories for the Mumbai Police was Matunga police station, where earlier, around 100 chain-snatching cases would be reported each year. The jurisdiction has 167 roads and 22 marriage halls, which made it a key spot for thieves. Awareness campaigns and constructing railings on the footpaths, helped curb the crime. "For the past 19 months, we have not had even a single chain snatching case in our area," said senior police inspector, Matunga, BM Kakad.
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