Asia's biggest automotive parts market has fallen prey to petty crime.
Mass break-ins and snatching incidents during evening hours, along with motor vehicle thefts in broad daylight have reportedly become daily episodes at the Kashmere Gate automotive parts market in north Delhi.
“I’ve been running my shop here for the past four decades but the market, which has won many international awards for being the best-of-its-kind in Asia, has never been as unsafe for those who run it, as it is today,” said Harinder Singh (50), president, Automotive Parts Merchants’ Association (APMA).
He said burglars had been targeting at least five shops almost everyday. But police say only three burglaries have taken place in the area in three months.
“In just the first week of March, two automotive retailers’ shops were burgled in the Bara Bazaar area, while three shops in the Chabi Ganj area were targeted thrice on three consecutive days,” said Rajesh Sethi (46) who has been doing business at the market for the last 20 years.
Pramod Kumar’s (48) three-storey ‘Littal Motor Parts’ showroom — which is under constant surveillance by two CCTV cameras on each floor, has been targeted twice in three months.
“In both the cases, assailants have broken into my showroom from the second-floor terrace, damaged the CCTVs and taken all the cash from the safe in my office,” Kumar said.
Traders said they were increasingly becoming sitting ducks for criminals feeding the underground stolen spare parts market.
“In most cases where shops have been targeted in clusters, assailants have only taken merchandise such as brass ball bearings and other alloy-based spare parts,” explained Vinay Narang (42) who has been a part of the market for more than two decades.
“These can be easily melted and moulded into anything, while the other items can be sold at cheaper rates,” he added.
More than 20,000 traders, who form part of the market, blame lack of quality policing for the menace.
“When we brought the matter to the notice of the local police station, we were told to make our own security arrangements,” complained Narang.
“The assailants seem to have identified various points throughout the market, where they snatch valuables from traders almost every evening when the former are on their way to the parking,” said Sethi.
According to police, however, not even a single case of snatching has been registered at the Kashmere Gate police station during January 1 to March 28, 2010.
While three cases of burglary have been registered, 11 cases of motor vehicle theft and eight cases of theft have been brought to the police's notice during the same period.
“We investigate each case that is reported and are soon going to increase night patrolling in the area,” said Sagar Preet Hooda, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), north.