Public anger at what they felt was police inaction against thefts in Orlem, Malad, spilled over on Saturday, when residents caught a thief and allegedly beat him to death.
The deceased was identified as Lakshman Suryavanshi (19).
The alleged lynching happened on Saturday morning, at the hands of locals of Sai Baba Nagar in the Orlem Church area.
The police have registered an offence of murder against unidentified people and are recording statements.
The police said that around 2 am, three thieves came to the area, and were noticed by locals who found them suspicious. They chased the trio after they saw it trying to break into a house.
While two escaped, one was caught. They tied him to an electric pole and beat him up till he lost consciousness.
“By the time our team got there, he was severely injured. He was declared dead before admission at Bhagwati Hospital,” said a police official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“We have registered an offence of murder against unknown people. The assailants are yet to be identified,” said Ramchandra Aher, assistant commissioner of police, Malad Division.
“Thefts in the area have gone unchecked for a decade,” said Dilip Jadhav (50), a local who works as a driver. “I am a member of the local mohalla committee and have told the police about these thefts so many times.”
Rajan Dange (37), who also lives in the area, said the thieves generally come after midnight and latch doors of houses from the outside before committing a crime.
“They generally take bicycles, water drums and other things stored in the verandahs,” Dange said.
“If a crime has indeed been committed, it is the police who should be dealing with it, not the public,” said Police Inspector Deepak Phatangre of Malad police station.