Four of the five accused in the photojournalist gangrape case have criminal records. The 31-year-old drug addict who assaulted and robbed an American woman in a local train on August 18 was a criminal as well. The man who molested and attempted to murder a nurse in a local train on July 27 was also a history-sheeter whose addiction to drugs was known.
Despite being under the law’s scanner — having been booked for various offences earlier — these men had the audacity to graduate to even more serious crimes after they were let out, which raises serious questions about the Mumbai police’s criminal surveillance mechanism and their ability to deter crime.
“We have a surveillance system to monitor on-record criminals and a lot of preventive action is based on this surveillance,” said Satya Narayan Chaudhary, deputy commissioner of police (detection). But clearly, the system is becoming defunct and senior officials need to upgrade it to make it more effective than it currently is.
Inherited from the British era, the criminal surveillance mechanism that the Mumbai police follow involves policemen keeping tabs on criminals through beat policing. “The policemen on night rounds check on criminals listed in police records. Also, these men are asked to visit police stations periodically,” said an official.
Experts said the police must strengthen this system using new-age technology, putting in place methods such as mobile phone tracking, email tracking and IP address tracking, which will make it easier to monitor history-sheeters. “There is a need to strengthen the prevalent system. They must employ methods such as Unique Identification (UID), which will record fingerprints and retina scans of all criminals. The biometric data of each criminal should be maintained,” said YP Singh, former IPS officer.
Former police chief MN Singh said that instead of devising new methods, the old system just needed to be revived. Because policemen are roped in for non-policing functions such as VIP security, they have moved away from performing their core duties of crime prevention, detection and prosecution. “Also, the police are more keen on making money than anything else. If priorities are set right and the old surveillance system is revived, no record criminal will go unchecked,” said Singh.