Newly wed Ravneet Kaur, 23, had just stepped outside her husband’s shop in Model Town colony market on Monday afternoon when she was attacked by a bike-borne chain snatcher.
Kaur, who was still in her wedding jewellery when the incident took place, has decided not to wear jewellery any more.
Kaur chased the accused, who had dared her to follow him, but gave up after he threatened her with a pistol. The assailant then fled with his accomplice who was waiting for him a few metres away.
But Kaur’s woes did not end there.
When Kaur went to the police to lodge a first information report, they predictably dissuaded her from doing so.
“They told me that they will catch the accused and I need not worry about paper work. I even identified the accused from the dossier they showed to me. Isn't it alarming that a person with previous criminal records and who has been earlier arrested in the area is able to roam free and strike at will?” said Kaur, who was robbed in a busy lane of the market.
Kaur is yet to come to terms with the fact that she was attacked in her colony, where she thought she was most secure.
Kaur is not the only one. Several other residents in the Model Town colony have been victims of some crime or the other within its “safe and gated confines”.
To curb the growing incidents of thefts and burglaries in their colony, the residents pooled in money to put up iron gates.
“Almost 60% of the colony is gated. We are in the process of putting up more gates in the remaining area. We cannot depend on the police alone to secure us,” said Devkinandan Dalmia, president, Residents Welfare Association (RWA), Model Town.
Residents alleged that police patrolling in the area was negligible and after several meetings with senior officers, the police recently started putting up barricades at night.
“After holding several meetings with the officers they finally decided to put up barricades at all the entry and exit points. This exercise has started only a month ago. Let us see for how long does the barricading lasts,” said Anil Kumar Sood, resident of F Block.
The residents also claimed that though the Model Town metro station was close by, women are scared to use it after dark because of the rowdy elements there.
Even a police station nearby has failed to act as a deterrent for the rowdy elements, the residents said.
“All kinds of rowdy elements hang near the Metro station after the sunset. Sometimes, they even consume liquor in the vicinity and pass lewd comments at the women. My assistant refuses to walk till the Metro station unaccompanied after 5pm. We have complained several times but to no avail,” said Manoj Gupta, another resident.
“The police often dissuade people from lodging a formal complaint. Last year, we had 600 cases of various thefts in our colony,” said Dalmia.
“When we contacted the area deputy commissioner of police, he told us that the Model Town police station had only registered 12 complaints in its official records. You can understand what happened to the remaining cases,” Dalmia added.
‘We are taking all measures to secure the colony’
Deputy commissioner of police
Residents feel unsafe in Model Town colony. What do you have to say about it?
There is no need for them to panic. We are taking all measures to make the colony safe and secure.
What are the steps you have taken to ensure their safety?
We have enhanced beat patrolling in the area and have asked the policemen to have a zero-tolerance attitude towards criminals. The emphasis is more on preventive measures so that the area remains crime free.
But is that not enough to check the rise in crime in the area?
We put up surprise pickets and barricades at strategic locations. On a daily basis we check around 1000 motorcyclists. In many cases we have recovered weapons and stolen vehicles from criminals in the process.
Residents say that police dissuade them from lodging a case?
No this is not true. We register cases in each and every complaint we receive. If someone has a grievance they should immediately contact me or the assistant commissioner of police who sits in the Model Town police station. If there is any dereliction of duty, the station house officer will be pulled up and disciplinary action would be taken against him.
But what if the problems persist despite these measures?
People can always call up the police control room (100) and get their grievances registered. However, if there is a specific incident, they can always come to meet me in my office and lodge a formal complaint there.
‘We were not surprised’
Like many others in her colony, Sugandha Dagar has also been a victim of car theft.
Thieves took the Dagars' Baleno that was parked outside their home. After several complaints to the police, the Dagars' stopped pursuing the case. “We did lodge a complaint of car theft but incidents like these are very common in our area.
We were not surprised when it happened to us,” said Dagar.
She added that she knew many people in the area who had either been mugged or robbed.
"Recently, several incidents have been reported where women on rickshaws were targeted and duped of their jewellery and cash. So many incidents have been reported but the assailants roam freely," said Dagar.
She said that several complaints had been made to the police but nothing happened.
Attacked at her doorstep
Seema Gupta cannot forget the day the snatchers attacked her barely five metres from her home.
Gupta was returning home after picking her daughter from school when motorcycle-borne assailants snatched the gold chain she was wearing.
"I was more shocked as it happened right at our doorstep. My daughter was with me. I was really scared for my daughter’s safety,” Gupta, a resident of C block said.
She said she has stopped wearing jewellery since.
“I do not wear jewellery outside my home anymore. I only wear imitation jewellery if I have to. I am still haunted by the incident," said Gupta.
She said that few days after she was attacked, her sister-in-law, who was visiting her, was also targeted in a similar manner.
‘They will steal anything’
The thieves did not spare even the water meter installed outside the house of Pooja Rastogi. A housewife, Rastogi said
the thieves steal whatever they can lay their hands on.
“We have a small courtyard and we also keep some household items there. But the brazen thieves scale the wall and steal whatever they can. They have taken the water meter installed outside the house away on several occasions," said Rastogi.
She added that her mother-in-law recently witnessed an incident where some assailants mugged a woman on the main road.
"My mother-in-law was passing through the area when she saw the incident," said Rastogi.
A few days ago CNG kits from four cars in her neighbourhood were stolen. "The thieves know that the CNG kits are expensive. So they are targeting specific items," said Rastogi.
‘Cannot depend on police’
Vinita Kanwar was returning home on a cycle rickshaw when someone snatched her bag.
Kanwar was too shocked to react and did not resist much. “I did not know how to react. This happened right in the middle of the market, which was crowded,” said Kanwar. She said she was too scared to contact the police. Kanwar became a target of the motorcycle-borne assailants at a market in Model Town-II.
“Until and unless it’s very necessary I do not take the rickshaw. And even if I have to, I make it a point not to carry a handbag with me. I cannot take anymore risk,” said Kanwar.
She said the accused could have turned violent and hurt her had she tried to resist. “I think women in the area need to be more cautious while travelling on rickshaws and otherwise also. We cannot just depend on the police,” said Kanwar.
Double whammy for Guptas
The Guptas have been twice unlucky. The first time, the thieves took away their car and the second time they stole a stereo from the Guptas’ other car.
“I cannot believe it happened to us twice. Our Indigo was parked in the driveway. The robbers bound and gagged our security guard before driving away in our car,” said Kusum Gupta, a resident of C Block in Model Town-III.
Within days of the car theft, the thieves made away with stereo from their WagonR. They smashed the windowpanes to steal the stereo.
“We registered a case with the police but it bore no fruit. We never got back our car. Now we are more vigilant and have deployed more security guards. That's all that we can do. The police also have to do their bit. The police should regularly patrol the area,” said Gupta.
‘Not enough police patrol’
Unlike other car theft victims in Model Town colony, Vikas Gotewala was lucky. Gotewala got his stolen car back. But what is shocking is the fact that his car got stolen from right outside his house.
“Imagine my horror when I found out that my car got stolen and that too despite police presence in the area. Everyone thinks that Model Town is an upmarket colony but this is the area where most of the crimes take place. We feel unsafe here,” Gotewala said.
According to him, law and order has taken a major beating here as beat policing does not happen frequently. Few days ago thieves made away with the tyres of his car that was parked outside his shop. "I am tired of this now. I do not use that car any more. Even though the police recovered it, it was in a sorry state and unfit for use," added Gotewala.