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Lost case of the missing cars

Delhi loves her cars but she does a terrible job of keeping them safe from gangs of car thieves. According to society of Indian automobile manufacturers, 17.5 lakh cars were sold in the city in 2009-10, a growth of 26 per cent, reports Karan Choudhury.

delhi Updated: Mar 16, 2010 00:07 IST
Karan Choudhury

Delhi loves her cars but she does a terrible job of keeping them safe from gangs of car thieves.

According to society of Indian automobile manufacturers, 17.5 lakh cars were sold in the city in 2009-10, a growth of 26 per cent.

But the city also lost 8,352 cars to vehicle thieves in 2009, a rise of around 30 per cent over the preceding year.

“We are trying to nab as many gangs as possible and figuring out their modus operandi," says Ajay Kashyap Joint Commissioner of Police (southern range).

The police officer's assurance, however, doesn't strike a chord with Lalit Pradhan. The 37-year-old government employee lives in Dwarka and takes a rickshaw to a metro station at 7:30 am to reach his Central Secretariat office on time. His Maruti 800 was stolen a year ago. He lacks the “courage to buy another car”.

On an average day, around 15 Delhiites become victims of car thefts — an organised crime as intricate as the engine that propels the four wheels.

"Each person involved in car thefts masters a separate expertise. But they all work together. That is why people who are caught sometimes are booked under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (India),” said a senior police officer.

While the police claim they have increased policing, they also blame car owners for not taking adequate security measures. Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal himself has, on several occasions, said, “the police are not responsible for protecting cars”. The police recently sent letters to car owners in the city on Dadwal’s behalf, asking them to install security gadgets.

The car thieves, in the meantime, have been making hay. While some steal cars, others steal accessories. Here are a few notable kinds:

Kaan tod gangs: Comprising groups of young boys, they target rear-view mirrors of hi-end luxury cars and sell then for Rs 2,000-Rs 7,000.

Bheja chor gangs: A bheja is the street term for a car's ECM (electric control module or the engine's computer). An ECM is sold for Rs 10,000.

Chop-shop gangs: They strip down a car in half an hour flat and sell it one spare part at a time. These gangs normally target small cars.