With a sudden spurt of chain-snatching incidents and other crimes in the area, the Mahim police claim to have come up with a strategy to cripple the operation of thieves and anti-social elements.
The police have issued notices to several eating joints in Mahim that give free food to the poor, aged, and those who can not earn a living. The reason - several petty criminals assemble at these eateries during lunchtime, and then indulge in illegal activities.
As per the notice, served under section 34 of the Bombay Police Act that deals with improper usage of a street or thoroughfare, the police have asked eateries not to give food to those who seem physically fit and capable of working.
"Private donors give money to restaurants near religious places to feed the poor and those in need. And though many of the people who assemble there are genuine cases, we have found that some thieves and chain snatchers take advantage of this generosity," said Dhananjay Kulkarni, deputy commissioner of police, zone 5, adding that they conducted a study of the area after witnessing an increase in chain-snatching incidents.
Normally, private donors buy lunch and dinner coupons from the eating joints. "These unscrupulous characters use the lunch coupon and return the dinner ones to the restaurant owner in exchange for money, which they use to buy drugs," said Kulkarni.
Kulkarni said the notice warns eateries not to entertain the young who are physically fit and can earn a living on their own as they could be potential anti-socials. "We have also asked them not to buy back the coupons."
However, restaurant owners said it would be difficult for them to differentiate between a genuine and a fake person. "How can we discriminate whose condition is worse than the other?" asked Ishtiaq Sheikh from Makhdoomi hotel, one of the eating joints in Mahim.
Even the police officers don't seem to be completely convinced. An officer from Mahim police, on condition of anonymity said, "I don't know how much impact it will have on instances of chain snatchings. On a few occasions, we have found children from good families stealing to earn a quick buck."