Following Thursday's gangrape in the abandoned Shakti Mills compound in Mahalaxmi, the Mumbai police refused to take responsibility saying the property where the offence took place was a private one and that patrolling it would equal trespassing.
This case highlights the need for a neighbourhood watch program in every locality of the city. Neighbourhood watch is a community crime prevention scheme, where police and community volunteers work together.
Neighbourhood crime prevention programmes have existed in the USA, Canada and UK since the late 1960s. However, the Mumbai police currently do not have any such programmes that rope in citizens.
SN Chowdhary, deputy commissioner of police and spokesperson of the city's police force, when asked why such a system is not in place in Mumbai, said, "We have Mohalla Committees in place."
However, MN Singh, former commissioner of police for Mumbai, countered the argument saying, "Mohalla Committees are only to avoid communal issues, exist only on paper and are hardly effective."
Singh said neighbourhood watch programmes can help reduce crimes like pilferage, street brawls and ensure safety in societies if people got committed and if the police more involved with the public. While Singh thought such a programme needs to be set up in Mumbai, he said its implementation may not be successful, since Mumbai, according to him, is a divided society.
"Neighbourhood watch is present the world over because people have realised the need for police and people to join hands. It helps people become more safety conscious and voluntarily take measures to ensure their areas are secure," said Singh.
In Mumbai, Zone 9 in the western suburbs which has areas such as Versova, Juhu, DN Nagar, Santacruz, Bandra, Khar, Oshiwara and Amboli has a programme called Society Cop, started in 2011, following which there was a 23% decline in the number of registered crime cases.