With election season in full swing, the Mumbai police are on alert for cases of vehicle theft and smuggling. Statistics indicate that the number of cases related to stolen vehicles peaks during elections.
This is because vehicles, especially white cars and jeeps, are in demand for campaigning. And with all the major political parties fighting the Assembly elections separately this time, there will be more rallies and so the demand for campaign vehicles will rise too.
According to the police, individuals arrested for stealing vehicles claim that white SUVs such as Qualis, Scorpio, Bolero and Tavera are in high demand.
And while vehicle thefts in the city on the whole have reduced in recent years, police say that the trend of stealing vehicles in Mumbai and sending them outside witnesses a jump during elections. “Such a trend was seen during the 2009 general and state elections when a significant number of vehicles were stolen in the city,” said police officials.
One reason that vehicle theft has reduced is because many owners do not get their vehicles registered in the city.
In addition, it has become difficult to trace a stolen vehicle to the regional transport office (RTO) where it was originally registered. This is because once the vehicle is stolen, it is sent to a new district or state, where apart from number plates, the chassis number of vehicle is also tampered with.
Many gangs are complicit in these activities. “If a four-wheeler is stolen from the city, then the gang will deliver it to the city’s border,” said a police official. “Depending upon its destination, the vehicle takes various routes before reaching its final destination, which may be within or outside the state.”
A vehicle originally purchased for Rs. 10-15 lakh is later sold at a much lower price.
“Sometimes the new owners are not even aware that the vehicle is stolen,” police officials said.
Mumbai police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said that so far, no cases pertaining to stolen vehicles being used in campaigning had been reported from the city. He said that it could be because of the extra checks being conducted.