Fewer burglaries, dacoities, but a lot more robberies
Efforts made by the Mumbai Police to reduce 'property offences' received mixed results this year. While there were fewer burglaries as well as dacoities (where at least five armed persons are involved), 2011 saw more robberies as compared to the past year.
Statistics provided by the Mumbai police show the number of burglaries was down to 2,597 this year, as compared to the 2,908 cases that were registered last year. The police attribute to the fact that more housing societies, shops and malls have started taking security measures to safeguard their premises.
An officer from Pant Nagar police station said, "Earlier, when we would ask shopkeepers to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, they would consider it waste of money. However, after burglars broke into a few jewellery stores in the area, others have learnt from their mistakes and have started installing security devices."
The same held true in case of housing societies. An increasing number of societies have installed CCTV cameras and hired security guards. "In certain instances, it was found that many security guards were aged and did not have the basic training to deal with burglars and robbers who, in most cases, are armed," added the officer, requesting anonymity. DCP Manohar Dalvi, spokesperson for the Mumbai police, said, "In addition to the steps taken by the societies, we have ensured that there is an increase in patrolling especially during the night.'' Police claim that they sensitised societies members and shopkeepers, who then realised the importance of having trained guards with weapons that were functional.
However, despite such claims of aggressive patrolling, instances of robbery were more this year. Unlike burglary, a robbery involves stealing from a person after threatening or assaulting them, and is usually a street crime. In their defence, police said it was difficult to monitor every single street throughout the day. "While police patrolling is vigorous, keeping a tab on every lane simultaneously is impossible," said a police officer requesting anonymity.
Skilled gangs beat policing, lifted more cars in 2011
It was a bad year for vehicle owners. More vehicles were stolen this year than the last. While 2010 saw 3,933 vehicles being stolen, the figure shot up to 4,470 till December 11 this year.
Police say vehicle thefts are carried out by gangs, unlike robberies, which are executed by a handful of people. The cartel involved in lifting cars is highly skilled, with different parts of the operation being handled by a different set of people who, on most occasions, don't even know each others' identities. Recently, Powai police busted a vehicle theft racket operating between Gujarat and Mumbai. Of the six suspects, only one is from the city while the rest came from Surat.
An officer from Powai police station revealed that two members of the cartel were in charge of stealing the vehicles from the city and crossing city limits. The duo would then hand over the vehicles to two middlemen in exchange for money. These middlemen would then pass on the stolen vehicles to a Surat-based wholesaler who would change its make, acquire bogus documents and sell off the car to unsuspecting buyers from a second-hand car showroom. Of the 10 stolen vehicles, the police found that eight were from Mumbai.
"Earlier, if we arrested one person from the gang, he would lead us to the others. Over time, however, the accused have changed the modus operandi ensuring that they are not acquainted to each other. This makes our job a little difficult and like in the Powai case, apart from the two suspects arrested, others are untraceable," said the officer from Powai police station on condition of anonymity.
In addition, there are areas in central Mumbai like Sion, which have buildings that do not have a parking lot, forcing the owner to park on the road. These vehicles are easy targets for motor vehicle thieves.
DCP Manohar Dalvi, spokesperson of the Mumbai police said, "There are times when people leave their vehicles unattended at places where there is no security. This helps vehicle thieves to try out duplicate keys without getting noticed. Our men are on patrol duty to ensure such incidents are curbed."