It was just another evening for 50-year-old Shashi Sareen. Like every day, she was going back to her Surya Niketan home from Karkardooma Metro station at 6 in the evening when two bike-borne assailants snatched her handbag.
The bag had Rs. 60,000 in cash, her mobile phone and ATM cards.
Now, Sareen always takes along a family member each time she goes to or returns from the Metro station."I've been travelling alone for 25 years but never faced any problem. I didn't know that a number of people in my locality were victims of street crimes, till I became a victim myself. Today, I know at least five victims of snatching in Surya Niketan area alone," said Sareen, a senior security officer at the Supreme Court.
The ugly truth
East Delhi's plotted colonies around Vikas Marg house swanky bungalows, most of whose residents believe that partially unlit stretches in the area are a big reason to worry.
On the surface, areas such as Preet Vihar, Surajmal Vihar, Savita Vihar, Dayanand Vihar, Anand Vihar and Yojna Vihar are perfect dream home destinations. But scratch below, and incidents of vehicle thefts, snatchings and burglaries abound.
Agreed Rajni Kapoor, 24, who works as an HRA executive with a reputed school in Karkardooma. Some time ago, two bike-borne men had snatched her handbag that had cash and other valuables, when she was travelling on an isolated stretch in Vivek Vihar.
"However, I noted down the bike's registration number and helped police trace the criminals. I also got back my stuff," she said.
According to the latest data of Delhi Police, these plotted residential colonies - under the jurisdictions of Preet Vihar, Anand Vihar and Vivek Vihar police stations - have so far witnessed 44 incidents of snatching and 10 robbery cases in 2012. Also, 200 vehicles were stolen from these colonies in 2012.
The police, however, contend that the crime figures have come down when you compare it to last year's data.
But what is a worrying trend is that the targets of a majority of criminals were women. Most were either out for a morning or evening walk, waiting on the roadside for their children's school bus, out to buy vegetables or were travelling to or from Metro stations.
Criminals have field day
Police also attribute the crimes to the area's proximity to northeast Delhi and Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad, to which almost all important roads are connected.
So, criminals from across the border are having a field day especially near the Karkardooma Metro station, Bhartendu Harishchandra Marg, Cross River Mall, Vivek Vihar, Yojna Vihar, Maharaja Surajmal Marg, Road No 71 and 71A and Bahubali Park among other spots.Add to it the area's partially unlit stretches and deserted roads.
"Most criminals come from these areas on high-speed motorcycles, wearing helmets. They attack their targets and immediately cross the border," said a senior police officer, adding that a majority of gangs are from Nand Nagri and Brahmpuri in Delhi and from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.
While Delhi Police claim that cases of vehicle theft have gone down because of their efforts, residents claim that the decline has been because of their own efforts.
"We have confined the entry and exit to one or two gates and deployed guards at these gates. This way, we have restricted the entry of anti-social elements in our colonies. Many colonies have even installed CCTV cameras at the gates," said Rohit Bhatnagar, general secretary of the Chitra Vihar residents' welfare association.
Police, however, say that of the 30-odd posh colonies, less than 10 have CCTV cameras installed at their gates.
Car stolen, he is now afraid of buying a new one
Works at Nirman Vihar
When Mukesh Kapoor's eight-year-old son asks him about their car, the chartered accountant tells him that it has been sent to the workshop.
Kapoor believes that his son won't take very well the fact that his favourite Maruti Alto car has been stolen.
The incident happened on September 13, metres away from the 37-year-old's office at Madhuban Towers in Nirman Vihar, during daytime.
Kapoor had been parking his car at a designated spot outside his office for years. That day, he had parked it about 200 meters away from office, as his designated spot had been occupied by someone else's car.
"I had locked the gear, steering and door handles properly. Four hours later, I came out of my office to find my car missing. Initially, I thought it may have been towed away by the traffic police. I immediately called the police control room. But after an hour-long futile search through different police stations, I was forced to admit that my car had indeed been stolen," said the chartered accountant.
He is now hesitant about buying a new car for he believes that no security gadgets can keep a car safe from thieves.
She was targeted by snatchers twice, in same area
Resident of Surajmal Vihar
Every day at 5.30am, without fail, 45-year-old Sumitra Tanwar would go to the nearby Bahubali Park for morning walk. This was something she had been doing for the past 10 years.
Then, three years ago, her chain was snatched right outside the park. The fitness freak in her refused to give up and she somehow got over the incident. It happened again. Only this time she got injured too.
On August 23, Tanwar was on her way to the park when she was waylaid by two bike-borne snatchers, who wanted her gold earrings.
"They pulled at my earrings with such force that I got injured in my ear," she said.
So shocked was Tanwar that she could hardly move a limb. Some passersby came to her aid and helped her recover. Then she made a call to the police.
And although Tanwar has begun going for her walk again, she has stopped wearing any jewellery during that time.
But does she feel safe going to the Bahubali Park?
Tanwar said, "The situation has improved lately. These days, I see policemen inside and outside the park. Security has been tightened after the number of snatching incidents went up drastically in the area."