Enter Mumbai’s western suburbs, and it’s like entering the sets of a ’90s Bollywood gangster film. At its peak, the underworld thrived here. Today, films are made here, stars live here. Here, reel mirrors real. Crime thrives.
The western suburbs accounted for about a third of all crimes filed across Mumbai —10,944 of the 39,350 cases filed across the city came from the western suburbs. The police have solved just over half of these, at 56%. That’s a scary statistic for an area with 89 lakh people — the rich and famous like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra, and to the middle-class Mumbaiite — and that saw the sensational murders of music label owner Gulshan Kumar and builder Pradeep Jain.
Twenty-one police stations oversee 127.5sqkm, between Bandra and Jogeshwari. While the 1990’s saw extortion rackets in localities taken over by dons, today white-collar criminals who swindle large sums of money or cheat people of property have taken centre-stage. Praveen Salunke, joint commissioner of the Economic Offences Wing, told HT, “We get 30% of our cases from west Mumbai.” Fragments of the underworld have survived too — 49 cases of extortion were filed in 2016. “The influence Mumbai’s underworld had here was phenomenal. They knew when a rich businessman bought a new car. A phone call would be made to his house within hours, asking him for protection money,” said a former Mumbai crime branch officer.
While the police have managed to pretty much wipe out the activities of the mafia, cases of theft, rape, chain-snatching, molestation and card fraud are rampant. In 2016, 175 cases of rape, 875 cases of motor vehicle theft and 675 cases of burglaries and 2,076 theft cases, among others, were filed.
The 21 police stations in the west region fall under three zones (zones 8, 9 and 10). Each zone is headed by a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) who reports to the chief of the region, additional commissioner Cherring Dorje. When HT contacted Dorje for this story, he refused to comment. Zone 9, the stretch between Bandra (West) and Jogeshwari (West), accounted for nearly half of all cases in the region — 5,114 of the 10,944 cases. The zone’s DCP, Satya Narayan, too refused to comment. “I cannot comment without analysing statistics and types of crimes.” The high population could be causing the crime rate, said senior inspector Pandit Thakare from Bandra police station.
Solution: train officers
“Young officers need willpower to perform with the resources they are given,” DK Rupawate, who retired a few days ago as assistant commissioner of police at Andheri division. “When I started off three decades ago, we had one vehicle at every police station. Today, there are four.” Rupawate said, “In the past five years, a lot has been given to the force. What remains is motivating young blood.” Another officer said the force needs personnel. “We need manpower to combat crime effectively.”