The Mahim police, investigating the abduction of a three-month-old infant on March 26, have been working overtime as they believe that this may be the best and only chance they have to get the child back.
Policemen who have investigated cases of infants being kidnapped, both successfully and unsuccessfully, said they agreed that the 'golden hour' medical rule applied more in such cases as compared to other crimes wherein the first few days after the abduction are vital.
A crime branch officer, investigating the Mahim abduction, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "Broadly speaking, an infant is abducted either with the intention of selling it to a childless couple or to use it in the begging racket. In both cases, the accused are on the lookout for infants who are barely a few weeks/months old."
"While the golden hour rule is applicable in other crimes as well, in case of infants, nabbing the accused within days of the crime becomes even more important as their appearance changes in a matter of a few months, making it difficult not just for us but also their parents to identify them," the officer said.
He said, "Even in the Mahim case, if we are not able to find the three-month-old infant in the next few weeks, our chances will keep growing dimmer."
There have been several instances wherein police contact the parents of children who have gone missing when they find an abandoned child. "They parents feel that the child is theirs only to be proved wrong by DNA tests that are used to confirm paternity. Hence, in cases where a considerable period had passed after a child has done missing, we have made use of paternity tests," the officer said.
A case in point is the Sion kidnapping case, wherein a newborn was abducted from Sion hospital on January 1, 2009. The Sion police, along with other units of the Mumbai police, had been put on the case to locate the child. In fact, the then Mumbai police commissioner Hassan Gafoor had been called to the high court when the infant had not been located even a month after the incident.
"It has been more then three years and by now the appearance of the child will have changed so much that not just the police, even the parents will not be able to identify the child," the officer said.
He said even when compared to other cases of abduction (wherein the victim is not a minor), the victim would try to run away or inform others, in case of infants, there is no such possibility. According to statistics revealed by the Mumbai police, the success rate when it comes to normal kidnapping cases for the period between January 2011 to February 2012, is 66% as compared to 56% when it comes to cases of minors.
An officer from Azad Maidan police, who investigated the abduction of a seven-month-old from Cama hospital said, "In addition to the fact that the appearance of the infant changes, what makes it difficult is that there are no specific gangs working together. On many occasions it turns out to be an individual who is willing to steal an infant in return for money. Conversely, in cases of house break-ins, not only do we know the gangs in operation, we have a fair idea about which group operates in which area."
"While we may not know the gangs operating in such crimes what we do know is that public hospitals and slum areas are, on most occasions, havens where such anti-social elements are known to operate. Hence, our best bet is to sensitise these areas and prevent such incidents in the first place," the officer said.
When asked if the Mumbai police had taken any measures to this effect, considering such cases are being reported every once in a while, spokesperson DCP Nisar Tamboli said, "Local police stations throughout the city do notify hospitals falling under their jurisdictions to ensure they have CCTV cameras installed at strategic locations across the hospital."