And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied...Isaiah 9:20
On any given day in Delhi, at least five people end up as victims of a crime that is easy to commit and tough to fight.
If you’ve not fallen prey to a bike-borne son of a gun — who snatches gold lockets, or laptops, or mobile phones, or hand bags — before disappearing into the pages of a crime register, you should thank your luck more than the police.
Meet Lata Kaul. The 55-year-old has been there, faced it. A resident of Krishna Nagar in east Delhi, Kaul does not wear jewellery anymore. The fear of a biker pouncing on her neck and snatching her gold chain when she steps out of her house is overpowering.
Poonam Karkara (35), a resident of Dwarka, has stopped wearing salwar kameez and switched to tracksuits after she was attacked by two bike-borne men.
Anjana Bhargava (27) carries her laptop in a backpack. The old one she used to carry in a single strap bag was snatched.
Ninety per cent snatchers are first-time criminals. This goonda, as is evident, lacks a face, rides a bike and, considering the low conviction rate in such cases, doesn’t care a hoot about the men in khaki. While the police figures may beg for a more conservative assessment, the truth is most cases of snatching go unregistered.
With traditional patrolling and picketing not producing desired results, the Delhi Police claims it will now analyse the “work culture” of snatch gangs.
“We have collected records and are analysing the scene, the time when these men normally strike, and the vulnerable areas. Based on the analysis, we will streamline patrolling and police picketing,” said Karnal Singh, joint commissioner of police (northern range).
The police also claim the rise in snatching is because it is “easy to commit”. “To become a snatcher, all you need is a fast bike. With more and more newcomers taking to the crime, it is difficult to maintain a database,” a senior police officer said.
The police say the black market is also fuelling the growth of such crimes.
“The black markets in Nepal, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have a big demand for stolen mobile phones and laptops,” said a senior police officer.”
All Delhi demands are safe streets.
Chilli in eyes, cell phone goes missing
Name: Uday Sharma
Occupation: Chartered accountant
Case: not registered
Uday Sharma, a chartered accountant, was waiting to board an auto rickshaw in Shahdara when he fell prey to snatchers.
He was talking on his mobile phone when two bikers pulled up near him, threw chilli powder in his eyes, snatched his cell phone and fled.
“My eyes started burning and within a second my mobile phone was gone,” he said. “People rushed to help. I cleaned my eyes and made a call to the PCR (police control room) after borrowing a phone from a local.”
It took him a week to recover.
He added that when he asked the police to register a case, they made all sorts of excuses. “I kept going to the police station and asked them when my case would be registered,” a dejected Sharma said. “They mocked at me and said ‘have phones ever been recovered by registering a case?’”
He added he has been to the police station four times but to no avail. “Every time I go to the police they send me back on some pretext or the other. Now I have given up. They tell me it’s just a mobile phone and I should not bother myself.”
Walking to a wedding, gold chain snapped
Name: Meenakshi Khanna
Meenakshi Khanna (56) is still traumatised. A housewife and resident of Gandhi Nagar, Khanna was on her way to attend a wedding with her family when she became a victim of chain snatching.
The roads were clogged owing to number of marriages that day, so instead of taking a vehicle the Khannas decided to walk to the venue.
“While we were walking towards the venue, I realised a motorcycle pulled up near me. I had covered myself well with my sari. I knew such incidents happen. But I was unlucky,” she said.
Khanna said she suffered deep cuts when the bike-borne men snatched the chain from her neck.
“They snatched it so hard, I lost my balance and fell. My neck was badly bruised and I started bleeding,” said Khanna. The bruise marks on her neck remained till even 10 days after the attack. Her son chased the snatchers but failed to catch up, she said.
“They were on a bike so he could not catch them. We called the police but they were reluctant to register a case. It was only after we gave the reference of some senior officers that a case was registered,” said Khanna.
‘Ran after them but they managed to flee’
Name: Lalita Sharma
Case: Not Registered
Lalita Sharma (33), a housewife, was returning from a party with her husband and her three-year-old daughter in a rickshaw when two bike-borne men attacked her in Mansarovar Park.
“We were in a rickshaw. One of the two bikers pounced on my neck and snatched my chain,” she said.
“I shouted for help. My little daughter was also with me. I even ran after them but they managed to flee.”
Her husband also gave the two bikers a chase but to no avail. The incident happened at a very busy locality at 5 in the evening.
“Where it happened was a busy road. We thought such incidents take place on desolate roads. That it happened on a road in the presence of hundred other people is outrageous. We were informed by locals these men are quite notorious in the area,” said Sharma.
They called up the police but no case was registered.
“It has been two months now, but we have not heard anything from the police. I was scared for my daughter. What if they had tried to harm her? I felt disgusted that someone attacked me barely few metres away from my home,” said Sharma.
Developing vital network of informers
Jt commissioner of police (New Delhi range)
Why are cases of snatching not registered? And if they are, why are they played down?
I don't think this is the case. The (police) commissioner has been been crystal clear in saying no burking of cases will be tolerated. Every officer concerned has been categorically told to register each case. Recently, there have been many cases which police officers have risked their lives in the process of confronting snatchers. They are being suitably rewarded while each SHO (station house officer) is proactively involved in not only registering but also following up on the victims of such instances.
What steps are you taking to ensure the criminals are brought to justice?
We have been taking pain-staking steps to curb the menace - in fact, that is why snatching cases have come down in comparison to last year. We have developed and are tapping an expanding network of informers giving us vital information.
Trying to streamline patrolling
Jt commissioner of police (Northern range)
Why are cases of snatching not registered? And if they are why are they played down?
There is no direction not to register cases. If the local police is not registering a case the matter should be brought up to the notice of the senior officers including my office or the deputy commissioner of police (DCP). All the cases in routine are registered
What are you doing to curb such incidents?
We are analysing the whole scenario and are studying the time and places of crimes. Based on this we are trying to streamline patrolling and put up police pickets. Verification of motorcyclists is also being done.
‘We register each and every case’
Jt commissioner of police (southern range)
An increasing number of complainants say snatching cases are not easily registered. And when they do get registered, the police try to play them down. Why?
We register each and every case that is brought to our notice. No case is ever played down by the police. If any officer tries to do so strict action can be taken against him.
What are you doing to curb cases of snatching?
We are doing preventive deployment. Places like Dwarka have two police stations now. Soon a third one is going to come up. This will improve the ground situation. We are asking people to come and register cases as well. Beat policing has increased substantially i problem areas. Detection in snatching cases has also increased.