For a week, after his nephew was murdered, Pradeep Ahlawat spent hours with the Noida Police hoping the Rs 1 lakh reward would fetch some clues to bring the guilty to justice.
The murder of 23-year-old software engineer Sachin Sangwan on August 30, just a month into his first job, had made headlines. Under pressure to crack the case, the Noida Police top brass held meetings and conducted raids across the city hoping to make a breakthrough. Little did the officers know that while they were hunting for Mehfooz in Noida, he had already crossed the border into Delhi.
In Delhi, Mehfooz had a new name — he was Bhura.
This crossing of borders to escape the law was not a one-off instance. It is fairly common for the likes of Mehfooz (29), an inter-state gangster with over 40 cases of robbery and snatching in the National Capital region (NCR), to cross the border after every crime. There are 106 gateways to enter Delhi. Only 33 points are manned by Delhi Police. Unguarded, the remaining 73 borders provide criminals unchecked entry and exit across neighbouring cities.
The porous borders have over the years aided criminal gangs that are mushrooming across NCR. In 2014, Delhi Police arrested 4,934 robbers, way more than the number of robbers arrested in 2013 (1,649). The Ghaziabad Police this year recovered four sten guns while an improvised AK -47 was recovered in Delhi last year. The easy access criminals have today to sophisticated weapons continues to baffle investigators.
Put together, criminals have turned the NCR region into a den for crimes they commit fearlessly and cross borders to evade arrest.
In a four-part series, HT takes a look at criminals, what helps them commit crimes and why the crime graph in the region is on the rise.
Five years ago, Delhi Police had 599 robbery cases. The figure this year had already crossed 4,923 by August 31. In 2010, there were 1,671 cases of snatching, which has jumped fourfold to 6,407 cases. 14,966 vehicles were stolen in 2010, this year the number is nearing 20,000.
The four most wanted car thieves of Gurgaon were found to be involved in thefts in Delhi’s Saket, Safdarjung Enclave, Vasant Kunj and Kapashera. The mobile phone location of western UP’s most wanted gangster Mukeem Kala, recently involved in the Rs 9-crore Saharanpur Tanishq dacoity case, was found to be in Delhi, according to Ghaziabad SP (city) Dr Ajay Pal.
“No vehicle stolen from Delhi is sold or used in the city. Using fake number plates, the cars are driven across the border without any cop from Gurgaon, Ghaziabad or Noida verifying the authenticity of the forged number plates,” an officer said.
Out of the 19,559 vehicles stolen this year, only 1,600 have been recovered.
“Forget cars, talk about weapons. Every weapon fired in Delhi is smuggled into the city. They are manufactured in various parts of UP. One should investigate what/who facilitates a safe passage for these smugglers into the city,” the officer said.
Last year, Delhi Police recovered 969 firearms. As per police, couriers — people who smuggle arms — take the bus route to enter Delhi as they find it to be the safest.
“There is no baggage scanner at the bus terminals,” they said. Most of the arms seized last year from these couriers were from outside the three interstate bus terminals in Delhi. Senior officers admit they have to depend on intelligence and cannot stop every vehicle for checking.
According to the data from Delhi’s transport department, approximately 2.25 lakh vehicles cross the city borders everyday through manned points. An almost equal number of vehicles enter through the unmanned borders. “It is impossible to check vehicles with a short-staffed police force,” the officer said.
While organised crime figures continue to rise, there is little coordinated effort from the police to control the menace created by these interstate criminals. Joint state meetings happen only once in three months and officers continue to fight over jurisdiction.
The level of coordination between Noida and Delhi police was exposed when on September 6, a Delhi Police team arrested Mehfooz from east Delhi. The two police departments are still fighting over the reward money of Rs 1 lakh.