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These city cops get paid to surf the Net

These days officers from the cyber crime police station are solving cases even before being approached by a complaint. Mohamed Thaver reports.

mumbai Updated: May 02, 2011 01:25 IST
Mohamed Thaver

These days officers from the cyber crime police station are solving cases even before being approached by a complaint. Wondering how? Through ‘cyber patrolling’ officers at the cyber crime police station go through various websites and networking sites to see if anything ‘criminal’ in nature has been posted online.

“We do not want to wait for a person to be defrauded or cheated online and then begin investigations. Through cyber patrolling what we are basically trying to do is to nip the crime in the bud,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police, crime.

Giving an example of how cyber patrolling works, an officer requesting anonymity said, “During the 2011 World Cup matches, there was a huge demand for tickets. While cyber patrolling, one of our officers came across a website where World Cup tickets were being sold in black at very high prices. We tracked down two youngsters, who had posted the offer and arrested them.”

Roy said the police had also managed to track down missing individuals by keeping tabs on their email accounts and networking sites.

Explaining how cyber patrolling is done, an officer said, “Apart from investigating the complaints registered with us, for some time during the day, we browse several websites – including popular networking sites. Also, we keep regular tabs on websites that have been used to cheat people.”

The officer said they were also keeping an eye on networking sites to ensure no derogatory comments concerning any community were being posted.

“Since networking sites are a public domain, a single comment can spill on to the streets resulting in a law and order problem,” the officer said.

For instance, on February 14 protesters pelted stones at the Khar police station and damaged several vehicles after derogatory comments about Dr BR Ambedkar were published on a popular social networking site. The page had to be ultimately blocked by the Central Emergency Response Team. Dozens of policemen sustained minor injuries and had to resort to lathi-charge.

The officer said, “When we spot a comment posted that could lead to a law and order problem, we ask the person concerned to delete the post, as they may not realise the consequences. However, if they refuse to do so, we may take legal against the person.”

When questioned about the efficacy of cyber patrolling, cyber crime expert Vijay Mukhi told the Hindustan Times, “There is no guarantee that since you have police officers patrolling they would be able to weed out all illegal activities online since the Internet by itself is vast. The police should make use of several tools like registering with search engines, along with manual searches, to make cyber patrolling more effective.”