A day without a burglary in the capital is a day that never comes. Twenty-four hours yield at least five cases of the crime. In 2009, 1,634 homes were emptied out, only 648 cases solved. Two months into 2010 and more than 300 cases have already been registered.
Many Delhiites are moving to gated colonies in quest of security. And the burglars are catching up.
Gated colonies have been targeted on 16 occasions in the past fortnight alone. At the receiving end have been the seemingly most secure localities in residential hubs such as Dwarka and Mayur Vihar.
On March 3, eight burglaries were reported from Mayur Vihar’s high-profile IFS and Supreme Enclave Apartments. On March 4, six apartments were burgled within a span of three hours from Atulya Apartments in Dwarka’s Sector 18 B.
Hear what Ajay Kashyap, Joint Commissioner of Police, Southern Range, has to say: “We are not omnipresent. We keep telling office bearers of each colony to step up security. Their protection is in their own hands.”
The residents, meanwhile, are running out of hope.
“We pay Rs 1,650 towards safety and maintenance charges every month. I don’t see any point in living in this high-profile, CCTV-secured apartment complex anymore,” said Anita Gautam (40), a resident of IFS apartments.
“My husband and I chose to live here because we thought it would be a safer option,” said Mala Saini (28), a resident of Atulya Apartments whose third-floor apartment was burgled.
A police officer profiled the crime thus: “In all cases, the main doors were forced open when the residents of the house were away. Only the cash and the jewellery were taken. At least three apartments were targeted in each case."
Some crimes don’t end with the loot.
Pravesh Soni’s Laxmi Bai Nagar house was burgled and set to flames in February. “They took whatever I had. I don't want to talk about it,” she said.
The police claim it was the handiwork of a juvenile gang.
"These days, juveniles play a major role in burglaries,” said Dharmendra Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police, New Delhi Range.
And what are the police doing about it? They are searching for the alleged leader of the ‘firebrand’ gang who escaped from a juvenile observation home for the sixth time last Sunday.
Nothing can return sense of security
Name: Mala Saini
Occupation: Fashion Designer
Home burgled: March 5
A week after her third-floor residence at Dwarka's Atulya Apartments was burgled, Mala Saini (28) still has trouble sleeping at night.
“I keep waking up and checking whether some one is trying to break into my house again,” said Saini who works as a fashion designer in Gurgaon.
“Though they managed to take just Rs 62,000 in cash and a few electronic items, nothing can return my sense of security to me.”
Saini’s house was one of the first of the six homes that were burgled on March 5.
“The only reason why I moved into a residential complex in the first place was because my husband and I thought that his mother would be safe here. But I don't know how true that is anymore.”
She said she was still trying to overcome her fear, but shudders to think what would have happened had any of her family members been at home.
Isn’t this terrorism, asks Army man
Name: Jaipal Singh
Occupation: Indian Army Constable
Home burgled: March 9
“Isn't this terrorism?” said Jaipal Singh as he sat among the charred remains of the furniture in his two-room rented accommodation in Sarojini Nagar.
His home was targeted by the ‘firebrand’ gang while he was away at his parents’ home in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. A week after the incident, he is still struggling to get his life on track.
“It’s like I have to make a new beginning. The only question is how.”
The burglary cost Singh more than just a bundle of clothes and his television set. He seems to have stopped believing in the same people that he protects on the border.
“People like me risk our lives for those living on the mainland. This is what we get in return. Whoever did this to me is heartless and doesn't deserve any amount of leniency.”
It was a pity such gangs are allowed to have a free run in the country's capital, he said.
Police have to be more approachable
Occupation: Senior Business Analyst
Home burgled: February 25
“I’d rather not keep a single penny at home,” said Deepika (35) whose home was among the four that had been burgled on February 24.
She now feels more insecure, she said. “But just the thought that a gang of people can gain access to my house, to my belongings again, when I’m away, still haunts me.”
“Neither the building's administration nor the police helped us the way we had expected,” she said.
Despite repeated trips to the local police station, Deepika’s husband was handed their FIR only after HT intervened and reported the issue on February 25.
"I'm thankful that I have a male member in the family who could make those repeated trips to the police station for the FIR. I wonder what would happen if two girls were living alone."
She said there was a lot the police needed to do as far as accessibility was concerned.