Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s bungalow was burgled of six idols, an antique piece and copper spectacles in November 2016. One of Delhi’s oldest watch showrooms Gangoly Brothers was broken into and 600 expensive watches stolen in January 27. The common thread connecting the three crimes is that the Delhi Police have failed to nab the culprits.
Police’s annual crime statistics show that 2,09,519 cases were registered in 2016 out of which 1,53,562, around 74%, remained unsolved. In 2015, the percentage of the unsolved cases was a little over 72%, when the city witnessed 1,91,377 crimes.
Among all heads, motor vehicle thefts, burglaries, house thefts and other thefts in 2016 had the highest unsolved percentage. Out of 38,644 vehicle thefts, the police could only solve 5,340 cases while 33,304 cases, around 87%, remain unsolved. Similarly, around 83% burglary cases reported last year had no breakthrough. As far as snatching cases were concerned, 6,207 out of 9,571 could not be solved in 2016.
The decline in the ability to solve cases directly affects the victims who not only lose their belongings but also their trust in policing. Sumana Vasishta, investment banker in West Delhi’s Janakpuri, too lost trust in Delhi Police when her purse containing credit cards was stolen in October last year.
“I hoped of recovering it and filed an online FIR. But when the thief began using my cards, I received multiple SMSes about successful and failed transactions within a span of minutes. I called some senior officers and provided them the exact timing and locations of the business establishments where my cards were being used,” she said. The thief was captured by multiple CCTV cameras, but the police showed little intent to catch him.
Asked why the proportion of unsolved cases went up in 2016, Dependra Pathak, Delhi Police spokesman said, “Our area of focus remained heinous and street crimes such as robbery, murder, rape and extortion because they affect the victims in a bigger way. Other cases are also an area of concern for us. We have drawn strategies to curtail them.”
Former Delhi Police commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma, however, has a different opinion. “These cases are considered as petty but they are the stepping stone for bigger crimes. To control the crime rate, these cases have to be solved. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of staff and diversion of duties leads to poor detection rate.”
Many police officers blame the new-age policing system for the trend. They say Delhi Police’s mobile applications such as MV Theft, Lost and Found and Theft Apps allow an individual to file his e-FIR without any hassle and with just a click of a button. But auto-lifters, burglars and thieves know that such cases are not probed with seriousness, until and unless the case involves high-profile personalities.
“After the launch of MV theft mobile application in 2015, the detection rate declined drastically from 14% to 4%. It happened because investigators adopted ‘no-investigation’ strategy in such cases, as they knew the application automatically sends an untraced report to the complainant if no progress is made in the case for 21 days. The complainants too do not complain as the untraced case report is all they need to claim insurance money,” said a senior police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Earlier, investigators used to physically conduct raids at all such places in Delhi and other states where stolen items are disposed of. A majority of the stolen vehicles are dismantled at illegal factories in Delhi and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Some stolen vehicles are sold as second-hand vehicles in northeastern states of India and Nepal. Stolen mobile phones and laptops are rarely recovered because thieves change even their IMEI numbers before selling them. Similarly, snatched or stolen jewellery are sold to jewellers who melt them to make solid gold, silver.
“Rounding up habitual criminals, keeping a tab on their movements and activities constituted the traditional style of policing. Investigators rarely follow them now,” another officer said.
The success rate in solving heinous cases, however, showed improvement in 2016 from 2015. Of the total 46 dacoity cases, only three remained unsolved. Twenty-three cases of kidnapping for ransom were registered in 2016, but 22 of them were solved by the police. Cases of rape went down from 2,199 in 2015 to 2,155 in 2016. Of the total rape cases registered last year, 1,864 were solved.