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Safe haven for thieves, snatchers and burglars

delhi Updated: Jul 20, 2009 23:50 IST
Karan Choudhury
Karan Choudhury
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Lucia Philip (47), a housewife in Mayur Vihar-Phase I, now needs to muster all her courage to go out and buy vegetables. On July 3, she lost her gold chain to snatchers, while on her way to the market.

“I had just stepped out of my housing complex when a young boy ran towards me and snatched the chain I was wearing. I was so shocked that I could not even cry for help. The snatcher ran to another boy on a motorcycle, and they fled in a matter of seconds,” she said.

Philip’s is not an isolated case. Although Mayur Vihar police’s records show only 10 cases of snatching and seven of theft this year, residents say petty crime is rampant in the area.


Promise Belied

With upmarket housing societies, shopping complexes and malls, Mayur Vihar has a lot going for it.

What it does not have, though, is a sense of security. Residents live in the fear of being burgled. They step out of home dreading the gangs of motorcycle-borne snatchers, who can kill for a gold chain. Lack of security plagues all three phases of Mayur Vihar.

Phase I

Most housing societies in Mayur Vihar-Phase I employ private security guards to keep troublemakers at bay. Problems, however, arise once residents step out of their housing societies.

“Beat policing has taken a serious beating in the area, leading to the increase in cases of burglary and snatching. We are losing our car stereos. Women fear stepping out of home alone, as snatchers are always on the prowl. Life has become very difficult here,” said Pawan Salwan, joint secretary, residents’ welfare association of Mayur Vihar-Phase I, Pocket-IV.

For the residents, even a walk through Durga Mandir Lane — a small stretch right beside Pocket-IV — is always fraught with danger. Lucia Philip, too, lost her chain in this lane.

The residents’ complaints to the police about the spiralling crime have been to no avail. “Nothing has changed. There is no police presence here. On July 7, the snatchers targeted another woman. We do not know when things will improve here,” said Lucia Philip’s husband Abbey Philip (50).

Phase II

Mayur Vihar-Phase II is a secluded locality where lack of beat patrolling is acutely felt.

Dentist Dr Neelesh Kapila, a resident, cannot get over the attempted abduction of his 10-year-old daughter.

“She was out playing with her friends in our locality when a young man came up and insisted on joining them in their game. The children ignored him, but he grabbed hold of my daughter and tried to drag her away. Luckily, she showed presence of mind and gave him the slip by throwing mud into his eyes.”

Following the incident, the residents demanded an increase in beat patrolling. “Patrolling was increased, but only for a few days. The station house officer even told us that they did not have enough policemen to keep up patrolling,” said Kapila.

Phase III

Proximity to semi-urban pockets like Trilokpuri, Kondli and Gharoli has made Mayur Vihar-Phase III a sitting duck for criminals. Senior police officers said, easy access to Ghazipur link road also made it easier for snatchers to escape.

BK Chaubey, a resident, said, “Every other day, either a mobile phone or a chain is snatched. We feel secure inside our society compound, but when we step outside, it is a different story.”

She lost her chain and confidence to go out alone

Usha Chaubey (51) has stopped going alone to the market located just 500 metres from her flat. She has stopped wearing jewellery and thinks twice before stepping out of her locality. Why?

This young grandmother, a resident of Pocket I in Mayur Vihar-Phase III, fell prey to chain snatchers.

“I was buying fruits at the market when a motorcycle stopped right in front of me. For a split second I thought it was my son. I could not see properly as the person was wearing a helmet. Suddenly, I realised he was tugging at the chain I was wearing.”

Too shocked to react, Chaubey just stood frozen. “I was not able to think. The chain snapped when the snatcher tugged at it the third time. He vanished from the market in a trice.”

Chaubey claimed there were no police personnel in the vicinity.

“I called my husband. He and a few other residents of our building took me to the police station. They registered a complaint and that was the end of it.

“I am scared to go out of the house alone. I thank my stars everyday that the snatcher just took my chain and did not harm me in any other way.”

He’s worried about his kids after attack on niece

Kuldeep Kumar Kaul (43) never stopped his children from playing alone outside their Pocket E flat in Mayur Vihar-Phase II. Not anymore.

Life changed for the Kauls the day a man tried to snatch the chain of 15-year-old Oschine Bindru, Kuldeep’s niece. The attempt was made practically on the steps to their flat.

“Oschine was coming to our house with my sister. They were walking towards our flat. My sister was a few steps ahead of Oschine. The man attacked Oschine as she was about to climb the stairs to our house,” said Kaul, senior manager with a banking firm.

Oschine was not able to move out of the house for the next few days. “She was terrified. A girl of her age is bound to be in a state of shock after such an incident,” said Kaul.

But the bigger change came about in the Kauls’ lifestyle. Now his wife, Baby Chirvi, keeps a strict vigil on their children Ankur (11) and Mehak (15) every time they go out of the house.

“A lone constable for the area is not enough. The stretch, which borders Sanjay Lake, is secluded. There are times when people park their cars here and drink. All this makes us very edgy.”

His house was burgled, he wants a gun licence

All Sunil Kumar Singh (44) wants now is an arms licence.

“This time we were lucky, as no one was home when the thieves struck. It might not be the case next time,” said the Supreme Court advocate, who lives in Lovely Apartments, Mayur Vihar Phase-I.

Singh, his wife Mukti (also a lawyer) and their children Trina (7) and Surya (4) were in Ludhiana when thieves struck at their house.

“They took away cash and jewellery worth around Rs 5 lakh. They broke open the padlock and ransacked the whole house. We lost a lot of heirloom jewels in the incident,” said Singh.

Singh claimed no FIR was registered for around 48 hours. “To date, nothing has happened in the case, and I have lost hope of recovering our possessions.”

After the incident, the only thing on Singh’s mind is the safety of his family. “The guards here are good for nothing. Their credentials are not checked before they are recruited and not a single one is an ex-serviceman. Even now, I see suspicious people moving around in the neighbourhood.

“When the police fail to protect people, buying a personal side-arm is all you can do,” said Singh.


Grill Time: ‘Snatching is the easiest crime to commit’

Dharmendra Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi Range) speaks to Karan Choudhury.

There has been an increase in cases of chain snatching in various parts of Mayur Vihar. What do you think is the reason behind it?

Chain snatching is the easiest crime to commit. All one needs is a motorcycle. These cases are difficult to detect, as at least 80 per cent are committed by first-time criminals. Still, we have taken many steps, like setting up random police pickets and registering motorcycles, to tackle the menace. The problem lies with the lopsided development happening in the city. Slum clusters surround residential areas like Mayur Vihar. These are the places where a chunk of criminals come from.

Residents of Mayur Vihar, especially in areas like phases II and III, attribute the rise in crime to laxity in beat policing. What is being done to tackle this?

There is a serious dearth of manpower. There is just one police station for around 1.35 lakh population. But even in such a situation, we are doing the maximum beat policing possible. We will further improve our beat policing in the near future. Beat policing becomes more difficult when a single constable has to deal with non-cognisable offences as well. The constables are supposed to take care of things like encroachment as well as catch snatchers.

Do you think the police strength earmarked for Mayur Vihar’s three phases is enough?

No. The place is running on less than the sanctioned strength. We need around 47 more police personnel in various ranks, from sub-inspectors to constables.

How are you going to tackle the manpower problem?

Some 6,000 constables and 500 sub-inspectors will be recruited in the days to come. This would solve the manpower crunch. New police stations would be set up and their areas would be segmented to make policing more effective.