South Delhi seems to be one of the Capital's best policed districts, what with the best workout rate of crimes, apparent zero delay in registering FIR and an overwhelming response to initiatives such as the Yuva programme intended to bridge the gap between the public and police. But scratch the surface and what you get is an overwhelming sense of insecurity.
Here, islands of affluence or 'middle-class' colonies are flanked by urbanised villages and unguarded by-lanes; malls and colleges descend into darkness and have zero connectivity to main roads; thriving eating joints attract drunkards and criminals.
Instances of robberies - such as the infamous Defence Colony heist in which five men robbed a cash carrier of R5.25 crore in late September - rose from 29 cases in 2011 to 43 till November 15. Murders shot up from 31 to 36 and 221 cases of kidnapping were registered this year as opposed to 193 in 2011.
Statistics aside, what makes it worse for residents is an overwhelming perception of vulnerability triggered by scenes of urban chaos and no sign of assistance in sight. "Though street crime has reduced slightly, women residents still feel unsafe. Whether the women should visit the neighbourhood shopkeeper or the central market depends on how dark it is," said Anil Kapoor, a resident of the A block in Shivalik area, opposite Malviya Nagar.
Police figures report a decrease in snatching incidents from 154 in 2011 to 134 this year. But 48 women were molested as opposed to 46 last year and 62 cases of rape were reported in 2012 compared to 55 the previous year. "Just yesterday, an autorickshaw driver robbed a woman of the jewellery she was wearing," said Neelam Joshi, a resident of Malviya Nagar, on Thursday.
Residents across Malviya Nagar, Saket, Press Enclave, Sarvpriya Vihar, Sarvodaya Enclave and Sheikh Sarai claimed that lax police deployment, especially during night, in addition to encroachment of streets by snack vendors was attracting 'criminal elements'. "The parks children visit every morning turn into bars in the evening. Visiting the same shops we visit for our daily groceries every afternoon becomes an invitation to lewd comments a few hours later," said Savita Verma (name changed) a resident of Sheikh Sarai's C block.
"Police deployment near or around our college seems to be accidental. This, despite the fact that our college also functions in the evening," said Supriya Sharma, a student of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College.