The underworld’s influence on Mumbai is waning; there are fewer gangs in the city; and the Mumbai police’s crime branch has departments that seem to have outlived their purpose.
Officially called the Detection Crime Branch (DCB), this famed wing of the Mumbai police that grew by size and function during its existence for more than five decades, is now planning to redefine some of its functions.
“We are recalibrating the roles of some of our specialised units. Others will be merged and given new duties,” a top crime branch official told HT, not wishing to be named.
The change was long due, say sources.
Over the years, the crime branch had created specialised units, each with well-defined mandates —for instance, when extortion threats and ransom demands from underworld outfits reached a peak during the late 1990s, the Anti-Extortion Cell (AEC) was created. Similarly, the Motor Vehicle Theft Unit (MVTU), the Property Cell, Anti-Chain snatching Squad (ACS) and the Anti-Robbery Squad (ARS) were all created with specific targets in mind.
And, they all had enviable records.
The Property Cell, set up in 2003, was credited with rounding up the entire Indian Mujahideen (IM) cell in 2008-09. The Anti-Robbery Squad (ARS) set up around the same time dealt a body blow to some notorious robbery syndicates such as the Katta Shekhar gang, the Nadar Gang and gangs of nomadic tribes known to execute violent robberies — under the tutelage of the late senior inspector Vijay Salaskar.
Following the elimination and arrests of many of the top bosses, however, department insiders said the underworld has lost its striking capability and major robbery and dacoit syndicates have been crippled.
“It’s a futuristic move, aimed at bringing about clarity in how these units function where work has become scant. After all, we have to change with time,” said another crime branch official, requesting anonymity.
The plan will be implemented in phases: the MVTU, ACS and ARS are likely to be merged into one unit to deal with the robber and dacoit syndicates, the Property Cell has been asked to go after counterfeit Indian currency syndicates and investigate major property cases.
“There has been a significant drop in the number of chain snatching and vehicle theft cases after the installation of CCTV cameras. robbery cases too have seen a sharp decline. There seems to be no need to maintain separate units now,” another crime branch official told HT.
Instead, a cohesive unit that will now be formed will handle all kinds of street crimes, the official said. “This way, they will be in a position to prepare a comprehensive databank on street crime syndicates and update information on the wanted members and those facing trial.”
With extortion threats from underworld gangs having dropped drastically in the past couple of years (just about 16 calls in 2015; half that number so far this year), staff at the colossal unit of over 30 officers have been asked to prepare records on extortionists and compile every minute information on those currently on bail or facing trial. Five or six years ago, the AEC handled 8-10 extortion cases every month, and the unit functioned strictly as a field unit.
Joint commissioner of police, crime, Sanjay Saxena, said the proposed rearrangement exercise is to create a mechanism to deal with organised crime in the future.
“We should be prepared to prevent the mafia upsurge in the future. Underworld gangs may have been lying low for now. But they might try to raise their head again after some time,” he added.