As the clock strikes eight in the night, women wielding lathis and sharp weapons descend on the dingy lanes of villages in Desari and Sahdai Bujurag police station areas in Vaishali district to keep thieves at bay.
At 11pm, the community policing work is taken over by village men, mostly youth. They continue to patrol the village areas till 5am.
The practice has been continuing in Murauatpur, Pathantoli, Sultanpur, Chakeyaz and adjoining villages for the last few months following unprecedented rise in cases of theft and police failure to check crime.
Mohammad Maqbul Khan of Murautpur said the local police seldom visited the villages for night patrolling. "In the last few months, thefts and burglaries at night had made people spend sleepless nights. Finally, we had to form groups of villagers for community policing for our safety at night," he said.
"We complete our household chores early and move around the village areas in groups of seven to ten women so that we can protect our property and people can sleep peacefully in the night," Kalashia Devi, 35, Aruna Devi, 40, and Seema Devi said.
Praveen Khatoon, 50, a member of the village 'suraksha dal', said it was difficult decision for her opt for community policing work as she had to lock her two daughters inside a room before going out for night patrolling.
Notably, villagers expressed their anger more against police than the thieves. Concerned with their own safety, the police do not dare to venture out at night, they said. As a result, the villagers said a dozen of theft had been committed in area in the last few months.
On Monday night, villagers patrolling the road at Sultanpur caught hold of six strangers moving around in the village in a van and thrashed them.
"They tried to escape when we asked them to stop. We had to block the road to stop the vehicle. The driver managed to escape, but six persons on board the van were caught. One cartridge was recovered from them," the villagers said, adding that they were later handed over to police. All of the six persons were later admitted to Mahnar primary health centre for treatment.
Vaishali superintendent of police Suresh Prasad Chaudhary said there was no complaint about rise in cases of theft. "Villagers have started patrolling in their areas as a precautionary measure," he said. Chaudhary, however, said he had instructed the police stations concerned to intensify night patrolling in villages.