Residents of government colonies in south Delhi are virtually living in fear of a teenager and his gang of friends.
The group has allegedly broken into 14 houses in Laxmi Bai colony, Sarojini Nagar and Netaji Nagar areas of south Delhi this year and set them on fire after stealing cash and valuables from there.
“We had gone to one of our relative’s house and our house was locked. The next morning our neighbours on the first floor informed us that our house on fire,” said Santwana Snehi (25), a resident of Type II flats in Laxmi Bai Nagar. “By the time we reached home, everything was over. Cash and jewellery had been taken away.”
The group targets houses, which are locked. They steal cash, jewellery and even foodgrains before setting the houses on fire.
The Snehi family moved to another house in the area as everything was charred and even the roof of the house had come down.
Police said every time the 17-year-old is apprehended, he challenges the police saying he would strike again.
Recently, the police apprehended the group and sent all of them to an observation home. They managed to escape by scaling the home's wall.
According to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the police cannot arrest children below the age of 18 years, but if they are found to be in conflict with the law they are sent to observation homes run by the government.
Police said the 17-year-old has been committing burglaries since the age of 10.
Residents said earlier only burglaries were reported from the area, but now they have started setting the houses on fire.
“Burglaries were quite common in this area. But now they have started setting the house on fire,” said a resident who did not wish to quoted. “It is a major security concern as the fire can spread to other houses as well.”
Police said they have stepped up patrolling in these areas.
Durga Pawar, a housewife whose house was also set on fire when they had gone to attend a marriage function in Uttarakhand, said the burglars even took away her children's shoes.
“The burglars must have kept a watch on us. We were in Uttarakhand when we got a call from our neighbours that a fire had broken out in our house,” said Pawar. “When we came back we were shocked to see that even the drums containing pulses and rice had been taken away. They even put the refrigerator and almirah on fire.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (south) HGS Dhaliwal said effort was on to apprehend the youth at the earliest.