On December 13, 2012, Harvansh Kaur (60), a resident of Indra Puri, was going to call her husband from a neighbour’s house, when a person - introducing himself as a policeman - came and told her that a loot had taken place nearby. In the meantime, a youngster came and asked Kaur to remove her ornaments and give it to him. Terrified, Kaur handed over the jewellery. When he had finished placing the jewellery in a kerchief, a third person came and instructed the other two to return the jewellery. The trio returned the jewellery and left. When Kaur opened the kerchief, she found that her ornaments had been replaced by fake ones.
Seventy-year-old Kavita Choudhary, a resident of New Palasia was going to Jain temple on YN Road when a youngster, posing as a police officer, first accosted her and later started scolding her for wearing jewellery as she was alone. The man told her that a person has been murdered some distance away and a checking is going on. He asked Kavita to put her jewellery inside the bag. When Kavita did so, a ‘police officer’ intervened saying she was not placing the jewellery in the correct manner and took the bag from her to ‘arrange’ the jewellery, which included a gold chain, a pendant and a ring. Once the man left, Kavita checked the bag to find nothing inside.
These are just two examples of how criminals pretending to be policemen dupe gullible women, a phenomenon on rise in Indore.
These thugs work with bait, which is very effective. The bait - fear to be robbed or insecurity - has become a thorn in the flesh for police for the past four years. The depredations are not only restricted to Indore but straddle across Mhow, Ratlam, Neemuch and Mandsaur districts.
More than four dozen such cases have been registered in these districts while more than 50 such cases have been lodged in Indore in last three years. In 2010, police arrested some gang members in Mandsaur but that has not affected their activities.
The main targets of the impostors are elderly women wearing jewellery. Posing as cops and with a combination of sleight of hand and confident trickery they make woman give away their jewellery and decamp with it.
Such is their articulation that they work with a structured plan and succeed every time. They space out their plan a month or two after their last act. And the victim is always an elderly woman.
According to the accounts of the victims, there are two to three gang members and their modus operandi shows that they are highly skilled in their art.
Sixty- eight- year- old Minakshi Natrajan, a resident of MIG Colony while recalling the incident told HT that she was returning home after visiting a temple at around 7.30am on August 19, 2009, when a man wearing goggles approached her at the Patnipura crossing and said that ‘Sharmaji’, a cop, was waiting for her across the street. When she went there, ‘Sharmaji’ was sitting inside a car in plain clothes. He told her that a murder had taken place the night before at the crossing and that she should take off her ornaments for security reasons. Confused, she put her ‘mangalsutra’, gold bangles and a ring inside the bag she was carrying. When as she was doing this, ‘Sharmaji’ called another person and told him the same thing and made him take out his ring and place it in a bag. She was allowed to go and when she reached home, she found her jewellery to be missing.
The same ‘Sharmaji’ was on prowl earlier on July 9, 2009. This time the victim was 50-year-old Indira Thakur, a teacher in Ed Merit School, situated behind the MIG police station.
Indira was going to the school when a youth on a motorcycle stopped her and said that ‘Sharmaji’, a senior police officer, wants to meet her.
A short distance away, a slightly older youth was standing on his motorcycle and introduced himself as ‘Sharmaji’. He told Indira that a murder has taken place in the lane last night and that police were not allowing anyone to wear jewellery passing that way. At that very moment another youth came and ‘Sharmaji’ instructed him to remove his ring, which he did and handed it over to ‘Sharmaji’, The fake policeman then wrapped it in a paper and handed it to the youth. Convinced, Indira also handed over her gold bangles to ‘Sharmaji’, who wrapped it in a piece of paper and handed it back to her. Later, when Indira opened the paper packet, she found a plastic box filled with loose soil.
And not just in Indore, the same modus operandi was used in Mandsaur also, where at least three cases were reported- on June 21, 2009 near the railway station, on May 19, 2009 near Central Store and near Alok Hospital on September 15, 2008.
The Mandsaur police had arrested Hyder Ali, an Iranian from Bhopal in this connection. He confessed to the incidents of Mandsaur, but not those of Indore or other places.
The fact that most of the victims are from well-to-do middle class families, who are aware of such incidents, is a concern for the police officials. Most of the victims of fake policemen said such is their mannerism and confidence level that anybody can fall in the trap.
“They are well built, have hair cut similar to most policemen and dressed in resemblance to a policeman in civvies. These impersonators are well versed with human behavior. They don’t panic and speak confidently,” said assistant superintendent of police (Crime Branch), Jitendra Singh.