Mumbai’s north is a gateway to the city of dreams. It is home to the ones who made it, the ones still struggling and ones left behind, to businessmen and street hawkers, Bollywood celebrities and vendors, residential colonies and slums… theft, assault and murder.
Its crowded streets were once witness to bloody gang-wars, its ilakas or localities are still under the palm of slum lords. The notoriety of the MaKaBo area —police lingo for Malad, Kandivli and Borivli — has even veteran officers dreading assignments there. So, what makes this area so infamous, and why is it so difficult to curb crime here?
In the 16 police stations of the north region, 7,920 criminal cases were recorded in 2016. In the city’s more affluent south, 4,385 cases were registered. There’s a story in these numbers, police officers told Hindustan Times. The large number of crimes in the north is because its population is so dense and so diverse, they said. The region is divided into Zone 11 and Zone 12, starting in Goregaon and ending in Dahisar. Borivli is home to residential towers. In Dindoshi, most families are low-income and there are a large number of unemployed youth. Move closer to Malwani, and the police encounter crimes like murder and spurious liquor.
The gang hangover
Rival gangs of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan had years ago fought violent, bloody battles for control of the area. Today, while the gangs and their leaders are no longer active, slumlords who pledge loyalty to these gangsters still call the shots in slum localities. Almost all officials in the northern part of the city said the gang culture among the slum population contributed to the crime patterns.
Petty crimes, poor detection
Theft was the most commonly reported crime across police stations in the region, followed by assault, or hurt. And most of these were registered in the police stations on the west of the Western Express Highway, from areas like Goregaon, Bangur Nagar, Malad, Malwani, Charkop, Kandivli, Borivli, Gorai and MHB Colony. Even with so many crimes, most of them petty thefts, being filed, the detection rate — or the crimes the police solved — was just 62%. A short-staffed force is the cause, officers said.
At a police station in Malad, an officer sits skimming through a bulky charge-sheet, its pages not in order. “These are pending cases left by previous officers, and because they have not been filed in a proper sequence, it will take time to wrap up these investigations,” the officer said.
At almost every police station in the north, this is the case — a limited workforce dealing with the constant pouring in of complaints. To add to the burden, the post of the additional commissioner of the north region, who overlooks administration, remained vacant for the entire year. The responsibilities were handled by the west region ‘s additional commissioner, Cherring Dorje, on additional charge.
Rajesh Pradhan, additional commissioner of police, who recently took the charge of the region, said the police’s aim now was to get closer to the area’s residents. “We are trying to get more involved and keep in touch with the people to understand what crimes are happening and what issues they are facing.”