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From post cards to apps, how Delhi gangsters combine old school tricks with tech to evade cops

From snail mail to hand-delivered notes and post cards to highly encrypted digital apps, Delhi’s top gangsters are trying everything to evade surveillance by the police. Officials say they have been forced to rely more on human intelligence than technology to beat the criminals.

delhi Updated: Jun 21, 2018 08:52 IST
Anvit Srivastava
Anvit Srivastava
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
post cards,digital app,gangsters
Jitender alias Gogi, who was involved in Monday’s shootout at Burari (pictured), has been on police’s radar for years. Officers said that recent inputs about his movements suggested he has not been using a cell phone for months. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

From snail mail to hand-delivered notes and post cards to highly encrypted digital apps — Delhi’s top gangsters are trying everything to evade surveillance by the police.

Police officers who keep a watch on notorious gangsters and their network said they have been forced to rely more on human intelligence than technologically advanced systems to beat the criminals.

A Delhi Police officer told HT that gangsters such as Sanjay Lakra alias Sanjay Mundka, Sandeep alias Dhillu and Samunder Khatri alias Sunder — all carrying a reward of Rs 2 lakh — have been using different methods of communication to evade police’s radar.

“Recently arrested henchmen of gangsters such as Jitender Gogi, Kuldeep alias Fajja and Rajesh Bawania have told us how the gangs have limited the use of technology. They were forced to do so because of our heightened surveillance,” the officer said.

Jitender alias Gogi, who was involved in Monday’s shootout — the third gang war in Delhi in one month — has been on the police’s radar for years. Officers said that recent inputs about his movements suggested that he has not been using a cell phone for months.

“If they have an active SIM card, we can trace their location. They interact in codes and get written messages delivered by their aides. Sometimes more than one person is used to deliver the message ,” the officer said.

“When it comes to evading surveillance, we suspect that similar ways are being used by Rajiv alias Pochanpuria, Sandeep Dhillu and Samunder Khatri,” the officer said.

Gangster Neetu Dabodia, who was gunned down in 2013, was also known for writing to his associates and targets, than making a phone call or sending texts.

Another officer from the Delhi Police special cell said, “In written messages, these men use codes to refer to their targets. No one is named directly. Postal services are not used as addresses cannot be revealed.”

Another police officer said apart from sending information and plans by letters which are hand-delivered by aides, these men use teammates to get their messages conveyed. “The use of technology is kept to a minimum. It is made only when it is essential. They make only WhatsApp calls since they are tough to trace,” he said.

“In some cases, we found virtual numbers. These numbers are not connected to any telephone line and are programmed to forward incoming calls to a pre-set telephone number, chosen by the client. So, the calls are received on one number but can be answered on another,” the officer said. Police said that the messaging apps used by such criminals have end-to-end encryption, where only the communicating users can read the messages. The systems are designed such that no third party can decipher the data being communicated.

Retired additional commissioner of police Ashok Chand said human intelligence is the best way to bust gangs. “Written messages can be used for a short while, but not on a regular basis. To counter this, the police must have good technical surveillance as well as a network of human intelligence,” Chand said.

The police also said that these gangs mostly use stolen vehicles. “In Monday’s shooting, the assailants left their SUV about three kilometers from the spot. The car had been stolen. Last week, in the Fatehpur Beri shootout one of the cars being used by gangster Rajesh Bharti’s men was a stolen vehicle,” he said.

To counter their methods, senior officers said, police are using round the clock surveillance. “Informers are used, special drives conducted to keep an eye on agencies dealing in second-hand cars, scanning of parking lots is used to check stashing of stolen vehicles and continuous technical surveillance are done to trace suspicious activities of the gangs,” said Dependra Pathak, special commissioner of police and Delhi Police’s chief spokesperson.

First Published: Jun 21, 2018 08:52 IST