Volunteers with Delhi Police help keep Sarojini Nagar safe
The team of vigilantes comprising vendors and shop owners acts as eyes and ears of the policeUpdated: Jun 24, 2016, 15:56 IST
Proudly sporting their neon green jackets and VIPS (Volunteers in Police Service) badges bearing the Delhi Police logo, this team of 60 men helps guard Sarojini Nagar market, which has remained on high alert for terror attacks since the 2005 bombings. The team of volunteers, which was formed on January 22 in the wake of reports of terror attacks in the city around Republic Day, has finally borne fruit.
They have helped identify a number of suspicious items such as unattended bags lying in the area and have recently helped nab a woman-led gang of thieves active in the market. “The work gives us immense sense of pride. It feels as if we are doing something worthwhile for the nation. We are not paid anything for it, but the service itself is our reward. I was here when the 2005 blasts took place, it was the most terrifying sight ever,” said Om Dutt Sharma, president, VIPS, who owns a garment store in the market.
The idea was floated by station house officer (SHO) Sarojini Nagar, VKPS Yadav. It was decided to be implemented in other markets such as Lajpat Nagar as well. This team of vigilantes comprises old-time shopkeepers and vendors from the market, who act as eyes and ears of the police.
“Besides being the watchdogs keeping an eye on any suspicious activity, their presence has also brought down pick-pocketing and thefts by 20-30%,” said additional DCP (South) Nupur Prasad. The team patrols the area, at times accompanied by police personnel, during peak hours and asks both shoppers and shop owners to stay alert at all times.
The volunteers know the corners of the market well and are familiar with the entry and exit points. They are also responsible for looking after the security during festivals as well. “After long hours of training as well as winning their trust, we can now depend on them to report about any suspicious activity in the place. Also, in case of any eventuality, we know that the team will contribute in rescue operations,” said another senior officer.
Recently, the volunteers saw a photo of a woman being circulated on the VIPS Whatsapp group, who was captured in one if the CCTV footage gathered from the area by the police to find a cue into the number of bag thefts reported from various stores in the market. “The team scanned the photo and distributed to all the shopkeepers to keep an eye in case they spot the woman around. A few days later, they reported that the woman was seen in one of the showrooms. They instantly called the police control room (PCR). The woman was caught and during investigation it was found that she had stolen around 200 bags from the market. The alertness and enthusiasm of the volunteers helped us nab a seasoned criminal in a short span,” said Prasad. The woman was arrested along with her son who sold off the bags.
Meanwhile, in order to further expand the vigilance, the police plan to add 40 more volunteers to the current fleet within this month. Dinesh K Dikshit, the team’s vice-president, who owns a bangles store in the market, said that the service has made them ‘heroes’ in the eyes of the public as well as their families. “My children are proud of me. They tell everyone that their father is in a special team to save the country from evils such as terrorism. We don’t leave any corner unchecked. Initially, people didn’t trust us but with time they accepted us. Also, the SHO joins the patrolling team almost every evening,” said Dikshit.
However, the police personnel say that the whole purpose of the exercise is to sensitise people. One of the main threats of possible terror attacks, the officer said, is through the many openings in the boundary walls of the market, which makes it vulnerable. “We have written to the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to get the walls repaired and block any such unwarranted openings. We are yet to receive a response from them,” he said.