To ensure that pandal-hoppers this time go back home with their wallets and other precious possessions intact, the police have hit upon a novel idea: have pickpockets to keep a tab on pickpockets.
The exercise has begun with the Government Railway Police (GRP) at Howrah Station - which sees the maximum rush during the pujas- digging into their files in order to recruit these resourceful pickpockets for the five days of Durgotsav. The GRP has already hired seven experienced hands and are looking for more. And yes, the police will be paying then for the services.
Police sources said the idea is to utilise experienced eyes to spot these purse snatchers in a crowd. Predictably, the emphasis is on experience as veterans in the job have a wide network and would know criminals personally. “We will deploy extra sources to prevent crimes, especially picking pockets, during the puja period,” superintendent of railway police MK Das told HT.
Using criminals as informers and sources is an age-old practice, not just for the police but all security agencies. However, for obvious reasons, GRP official won’t admit to recruiting these criminals.
“Usually, local pickpockets go to other states like Mumbai during Ganesh Puja to earn some extra money. Some of them even get arrested. In jail, they come across other criminals, and networks are built. We want to take advantage of this network,” said an officer at the Howrah railway police station.
The GRP is also planning to deploy a huge army of women cops during the pujas. “We tell commuters to be extra cautious about women pickpockets,” said an officer, adding, “These women flock to the city during the festival.”