On January 22, Sanjay Yadav, a physically challenged businessman from Kurla, foiled 52-year-old robber Umesh Agarwal’s bid to steal his gold chain after offering him a biscuit laced with sedatives while they were travelling on a state transport bus in Pune.
Yadav, who knew about such ploys, pretended to eat the biscuit, but kept it in his pocket instead. When Agarwal tried to rob the chain assuming he was unconscious, Yadav overpowered him and handed him over to the Nehru Nagar police.
Similarly, a 61-year-old woman helped the Malad police arrest two persons who were duping senior citizens of jewellery, on September 16 last year. The woman, Kokila Shah, who had heard about the modus operandi, alerted the police when the duo asked her to hand over her jewellery so that they could protect her from miscreants. The police arrested the duo who had duped another senior citizen the same day.
To bolster the number of such alert citizens who can help keep a check on crime in the city, the Mumbai police has started building a team of citizen informants to act as their eyes and ears on the ground, and who will inform them if they see anything suspicious happening in their area.
Called the ‘Eyes and Ears’ initiative, it was launched in the central suburbs on February 6. It is the brainchild of police commissioner Arup Patnaik, who decided to involve citizens after last year’s July 13 triple blasts, to ensure crowded pockets that have been vulnerable to attacks are no longer an easy target.
The police first earmarked congested areas and then approached shopkeepers and residents who are present there for better part of the day. Those willing to help were sensitised about things that they should watch out with the help of informative videos and talks.
The police selected 100 people for each station, which means that 2,000 citizen informants will now help with patrolling in the central suburbs. They will keep an eye on new people entering the locality, unidentified vehicles parked in the area and on any suspicious conversation they overhear. The initiative will be replicated in other regions of the city, bringing the number such informants to 10,000.
DCP (zone 5) Dhananjay Kulkarni, who is part of the initiative, said, “The common man is usually happy to help the police. Also, when people are a part of an initiative, they feel more responsible and alert. The response has been tremendous.”
However, another officer cautioned: “It has been seen several times that persons who are included in police initiatives start telling others that have clout in the police and try to extort money. This needs to be curbed.”