Mumbaiites, be alert: Rise in number of women involved in crimes in local trains | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Mumbaiites, be alert: Rise in number of women involved in crimes in local trains

Migrant gangs are causing a worrying spurt of women in crimes on local trains of late.

mumbai Updated: Sep 11, 2017 14:59 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Picture for representation
Picture for representation(HT File)

Early last month when Vasantibai Chavan, 54, Sonia Bhogia, 25, and Rajabai Bhogia, 31, left their villages in Madhya Pradesh for Mumbai ahead of Gananeshotsav festivities, their purpose was not to see Lalbaugcha Raja or visit the other pandals.

Overcrowded locals during the 10-day festivities threw up opportunities for the seasoned trio to strike at will. Before their arrest by the Government Railway Police (GRP) from Kurla railway station last week, they had together made a pool of 29 high-end cell phones, the collective cost of which runs into lakhs of rupees.

In fact, migrant gangs like this are causing a worrying spurt of women in crimes on local trains of late. Stealing phones, cash and valuables from commuters in women’s compartment constitutes the bulk of crimes committed by the gangs on loot and scoot mission, an analysis of the crimes has suggested.

The GRP statistics indicate that by July this year, 91 women were arrested for various criminal offences. The figure is considered very high in the backdrop of fact that the figures stood at 110 the entire previous year (2016), of which 28 were arrested for a demonstration at Diva railway station.

The gang of Vasanti, Sonia and Rajabai slept on footpaths, in parks and railway platforms, while routinely targeting crowded women’s bogies during peak hours. “While one of them would block a commuter trying to alight at a station by standing on the footboard, the other would quietly pick the commuter’s cell phone or other valuables from her purse.She would immediately pass the loot to the third member of the gang shadowing her, so as to avoid getting caught with the article,” a senior GRP official said, explaining the modus operandi of the gang while adding that by the time the commuter realised the theft and informed the police, the cell phone would be switched off. “This will make the phone impossible to trace,” said the officer.

The gang would continue to keep the phone dormant for the next six months, knowing well that the IMEI number would be under surveillance.

“The phones would later be sold in the rural pockets in their home states before the gangs were back in action in Mumbai after a little breather,” the officer said. The police often finds it impossible to keep track of members of such organised syndicates in the absence of any fixed address in the city. “After coming out on bail, they rarely respond to court summons or face trial,” the official added.

An analysis of the cases has thrown a palpable answer to the rise in women’s involvement in railway crimes. A senior GRP official said that women have a better chance of dodging surveillance than men, and the advantage is being en-cashed by syndicates. “That apart, their easy access to ladies’ compartment, where passengers are unsuspecting, ensures a better success rate for them,” he said. Lastly, civic and police eviction staff on footpaths and railway platforms take a lenient approach towards the homeless women, seldom asking them to vacate, the official observed.

GRP chief Niket Kaushik said that the large number of arrests this year was on account of the mandatory registration of First Information Reports (FIR) in mobile theft cases. Statistics show that a whopping 22,000 FIRs in mobile theft cases have already been registered as compared to the 2,000 odd FIRs registered in 2016.

An Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) rank officer with the GRP, who is directly monitoring the operations of the “Nirbhaya Squad”, a special all-women squad raised in 2011 for the protection of women commuters in locals, claimed that the squad has been playing a key role in cracking complex cases. From arresting 11 criminals in 2011, the number went up to 47 in 2012, 48 in 2015 and 33 in 2016. Till July this year, the squad has been credited with arresting 12 criminals, most of whom were members of migrant robbery syndicates, the officer stated.