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Women safety our priority, 7,400 cops to join force in 2018, says Delhi top cop Amulya Patnaik

As the year comes to an end and days ahead of the 2012, December 16 gang rape, Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik talks about crime in Delhi this year, women safety and modernization of the city police in the years to come.

delhi Updated: Dec 12, 2017 11:28 IST
Shiv Sunny and Prawesh Lama
Shiv Sunny and Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times
Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik during an interaction with Hindustan Times at the Delhi Police headquarters.
Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik during an interaction with Hindustan Times at the Delhi Police headquarters. (Vipin Kumar/HT PHOTO)
         

As the year comes to an end and days ahead of the 2012, December 16 gang rape, Delhi police commissioner Amulya Patnaik talks about crime in Delhi this year, women safety and modernization of the city police in the years to come.

Q. The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data has once again showed Delhi as a crime-prone city? What would you say?

A. In Delhi, we make all efforts to ensure free-and-fair registration of FIRs. We are registering crimes, particularly thefts, and other items online so that the service delivery system is enhanced and people feel free to register crimes without the hassle of coming to police stations. So, due to these factors, the registration of certain crimes has seen an increase. But that may not be the actual reflection. This year, on account of several preventive measures, heinous crimes dipped substantially. Any comparison should be done with Delhi’s crime statistics of previous years. Due to several factors that affect policing here – such as high frequency of dharnas and demonstrations and the high rate of migrant population – it may not be very fair to compare Delhi with other cities.

Q. The police attributed the high rate of crime to online registration of FIRs. But the response to e-FIRs is often delayed because of which the purpose of registering cases online may get defeated.

A. The initial response of the public towards e-registration was encouraging. So, we had a very high rate of registration, which the investigating officers (IOs) back then were finding it difficult to cope with due to their strength. But last year, a number of officers were promoted to ranks of head constables and assistant sub-inspectors. Even they are investigating officers in cases of minor nature. So, due to the enhancement of the number of these investigators, we are reaching a situation where the initial load of e-FIR is gradually easing. The investigations of e-FIRs are being closely monitored.

Q. Delhi is flushed with illegal weapons. Though the police frequently arrest arms smugglers and seize weapons, do you have a solution to nip the problem in the bud?

A. Due to porous borders and easy availability of illegal firearms in some neighbouring states, there has been some proliferation in illicit firearms. Petty criminals have managed access to these weapons. But this year we have a concerted strategy involving the local police, crime branch and the special cell – the illegal weapons being one of the major areas of focus. The three teams work together to fight arms smugglers. This year we made a much higher detection of firearms. We tasked beat officers and picket staff to detect criminals carrying weapons and they have been instrumental in catching them. We have intensified checking during vulnerable timings, particularly evening. Because of these efforts, there is a dip in the use of firearms this year by 9%.

Q. Snatching cases have decreased this year, but the snatchers are frequently getting violent.

A. I would attribute this to their desperation. They know increased police presence on the streets has choked their opportunities of free run. Now there is desperation to make the most of any opportunity they get. In such cases we slap more stringent Indian Penal Code sections (such as committing robbery with causing hurt) so that the punishment is greater. We have taken up with the government an amendment to the legal section (IPC section 379) pertaining to snatching. The government is pursuing it. We have identified crime-prone areas and ensured that increased police presence is visible there. Every police station now has an anti-snatching team and the district deputy commissioner of police reviews the team’s performance every week. We are monitoring more closely the list of those released on bail. Local beat officers have been instructed that during their visits to underprivileged clusters, they must look out for criminal elements who obtained high-speed motorcycles. They must find if such youths have the means to buy such a motorcycle.

Q. How will the new proposed law reduce snatching incidents?

A. If the prescribed punishment for the offence is more, it becomes more difficult for the criminal to come out on bail. So, he will stay longer in jail and thus out of crime for a longer time. The new laws will act as a deterrent. They will be afraid that if they are arrested, getting out will be difficult and the punishment is also more.

Q. The city still reports a high number of rape cases. Delhi is often called the rape capital. Is it fair?

A. As far as rapes in Delhi are concerned, more than 96% of such crimes are committed by relatives or acquaintances. These mainly occur in the rape survivor’s neighbourhood, homes or offices. 3.5% of rapes are committed by complete strangers. So, the strategy has to be to go beyond normal police patrolling and police presence. It has more to do with education, awareness and a change in mindset. At a young age, respect for women need to be inculcated. This can be done through gender sensitisation programmes and more education and becomes a long-term prevention strategy.

Q. Do you have enough investigators to handle the large number of reported rape cases? One officer handles multiple cases, threatening the quality of investigation and may possibly lead to low conviction.

A. As far as investigative workload is concerned, it is generally high due to high registration of cases. We are in the process of rectifying and strengthening the number of investigators, but the imbalance may take a while to go. But, even if workload is high, crimes against women always remain a priority. Such cases are investigated on priority and monitored at senior levels. Investigation is not getting neglected. But with an enhanced strength of investigators, we can do better to devote better attention and focus. We are recruiting more women officers who will serve as investigating officers. For the last few years, this was not happening but this year, we are adding nearly 7.400 new police personnel. One-third of these will be women.

Q. It will be five years since the December 16 gang rape. How safe are women in Delhi today? What is your message to them?

A. The Delhi Police is doing everything possible for women safety. We are always striving to innovate and inculcate the feeling of safety among women. We are working to popularise apps for women, making helpline numbers effective and ensuring PCR staff are more responsive. We are making sure of an increased police visibility during vulnerable timings, particularly when women workforce is moving on a large scale. I would also tell the women that the involvement of strangers in crimes against women is on a decline. We conducted a study of the accused men in all rape cases since 2001. Compared to 13.12% strangers involved in such crimes in 2001, this year the percentage is down to 3.12. Delhi Police’s efforts on the grounds are paying dividends.

Q. Delhi police had issued an expression of interest last year to understand why rapes happen in Delhi. What is the status?

A. A study group was constituted comprising psychologists, intellectuals and educationists. That group will submit their findings soon. The study will provide a psychological insight into rapes. They have spoken to survivors, interacted with accused. Once we have that, it will throw a lot of light on why such things are endemic in the city.

Q. There is a perception in some quarters that the police are trying to avoid registering many FIRs to show a better picture of the city.

A. This perception is not true. Our vigilance unit has a facility of compiling data of all complaints received anywhere and by any department. We have classified these complaints in different categories one of which is related to non-registration of FIRs. There is a steady decline in complaints of non-registration of FIRs. In the first 11 months of 2014, there were 209 such complaints, but the number has fallen to 44 in the same period this year. Even in these 44 complaints, I am certain that very few are property loss complaints. Most of them would be related to cheating or breach of trust. It generally takes time to verify such complaints before registering an FIR (hence those complaints of non-registration of case).

Q. Over 10,000 died on Delhi’s streets in the last 6 years. Road deaths in Delhi are very high in comparison to Mumbai or Bangalore. How will traffic police make roads safe?

A. In Delhi, we conducted a study of all the accident-prone areas. There were 108 spots, where at least 10 accidents happened within 500 metres, such as Ridge Road, NH1, Mukarba Chowk. Speeding was one of the main reasons. To prevent the accidents, we placed speed cameras and posted more traffic officers. The cameras stop people from driving at high speed. People now know they will lose their driving licence if they are caught speeding. As a result, this year we have 64 deaths and 600 accidents less compared to last year. By early next year, we will have 96 red light violation detection system cameras and 100 over speed violation action cameras, connected directly to the control room. This will help reduce more accidents. In spite of constant pressure and facing adverse weather conditions, the traffic police are doing a wonderful job.

Q. Traffic seems to be worsening on the roads. People spend a lot of time on the road. How are you dealing with this problem?

A. This year, we have taken many out-of-the-box measures to ease traffic problems. We studied individual congestion points and accordingly made traffic operations at those points manual. The lights are stopped and our officers manage traffic depending on the flow of traffic. We take help of Google maps and send officers to congestion points. Though officers on the field have access to Google, they are instructed about the traffic from control room, where a team looks at the map. The detail is sent to all field officers on WhatsApp. A traffic inspector sees the congestion on the map and deploys traffic personnel accordingly.

Q. According to the NCRB data, in the last four years there were around 550 FIRs against police personnel but not a single conviction.

A. This may include all types of cases, including accidents and their personal cases. I do not see any specific reason. On the contrary, if a policeman is involved in any case, the focus on the case is greater. The investigator knows the case will be scrutinized in court. Maybe these cases are still pending trial so the conviction has not happened yet. We make sure to delink criminal procedure from administration and take departmental action so that it serves as a deterrent. There have been many cases when we have dismissed guilty police personnel. We have zero tolerance on such issues.

Q. The Lieutenant governor talks about modernization of police force. What are your plans?

A. There will be digitisation of service delivery in a big way. We will explore all areas where digitization is possible. We will ensure that digitization not only improves service delivery but also decreases human interface progressively so that corrupt practices and harassment can be reduced. This year we made grant of licence for casual performances online. If you want to hold a function at some auditorium, all you have to do is to go online. Previously you had to visit the licensing office. Similarly, truck drivers will soon be able to apply online and get ‘entry permission’. Many such projects are on the pipeline.

Q. You have managed to avoid confrontation with the Delhi government and the chief minister. How is your equation with chief minister Arvind Kejriwal?

A. The Delhi Police focuses on doing its job professionally. Whenever any reference or complaint is referred to us by the honourable chief minister, the same is handled with due priority for suitable action as per law.

Q. Of late, many police personnel have committed suicide because of stress. What are you doing about it?

A. In Delhi, the workload is certainly high, not only in the constabulary level but at senior levels too. This is the national capital so there is pressure. But I do not agree that any policeman has taken his/her life because of work pressure. Yes, suicides are reported sometimes because of personal problems and health issues. The workload is high and we are working to increase manpower. Once that process is complete and more police personnel come on board, the situation will improve. We take welfare measures. We conduct health camps to ensure our men and women are medically fit. Early signs of ailment are identified. This is a way of reaching out to them and making them understand that people sitting in the headquarters are concerned about them.

Q. There has been an increase in the number of juveniles taking to crime.

A. Juveniles getting involved in crime is a matter of concern. In the Delhi 2012 rape, there was a juvenile, which prompted amendments in the law. In every police station, we build a record of budding criminals. In that category, we keep record of juveniles in conflict with law who have come to that adverse situation. It is called a pink file, a confidential file made for only the purpose of counselling such juveniles and making sure they come out of the mould of delinquency. There is a periodic interface to make sure they do not become repeat offenders. This year, the home minister launched YUVA, in which we identify whom we call fence-sitters. They are on a fence, where they could jump into crime or come back to the mainstream. If we can identify them at the right time and encourage them to go through skill development, we can empower them with skills so that they can earn their livelihood.

Q. Recently, a constable took on a criminal who had shot at and nabbed him. You said this was a sign to other criminals that you will be tough. How far are you willing to go?

A. Policemen have told to keep in mind that they may come face to face with criminals. The response of our constable recently is an indication that they are more focused and alert. Should there be a situation, where a person being questioned or intercepted does not submit himself to questioning as per law, or intervention of a legal kind, our officers will respond appropriately. We will ensure the behaviour of a police officer on the field is professional and businesslike.

Q. How will Delhi police reduce MV thefts which increase every year?

A. We recently did an in-house analysis of MV thefts and found that 75% of stolen vehicles are two-wheelers. Most of them were stolen from outside houses. Police stations are in touch with Resident Welfare Associations and have planned exit-entry routes at night to prevent thefts. We identified disposal points of stolen vehicles and held joined meetings with police in those states. There is also a need for awareness. If you are parking your vehicle outside the house, install safety devices. It makes it more difficult for them. Apart from, that we are doing our job of identifying these gangs and nabbing them regularly.

Q. How different will be policing in Delhi be in 5 years?

A. Most of the units will be on information technology platforms. Let me give an example. In 5 years, almost every important corner will be covered by high-definition CCTV cameras. Artificial intelligence will be used in crime prevention and managing traffic. A small example is of cameras that will identify unattended bags or alert us whenever there is a gunshot. This is only a small part of AI, which will even cover behavioural nuances of criminals.

Q. What has been the most challenging law and order situation you have faced this year?

A. In Delhi, you face challenges on a day-to-day basics. This is the National Capital and there will be challenges in policing. If you talk about one particular case, then the recent murder of five persons in Mansarovar Park was challenging. The case made all of us, the district police, crime branch work together to solve the case. It was a heinous crime, monitored at senior most levels. The Jat agitation in March and the aftermath of Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s conviction compelled us to make elaborate preparations.. Those were cases when law and order was geared to its maximum so that Delhi was kept away from any untoward incident.

Q. It has been more than one-and-a-half years since the case of sedition was filed against JNU students? Police have not filed a chargesheet yet.

A. A specialized agency like the special cell is probing the case. Being an important case, a detailed investigation is being conducted and monitored at senior levels.

First Published: Dec 11, 2017 23:45 IST

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