Crime in Navi Mumbai on the rise during lockdown, up by 220 cases in 4 monthsUpdated: Oct 17, 2020, 23:42 IST
After a brief lull in theft cases at the start of lockdown, a surge in number of cases is again being witnessed in Navi Mumbai as Mission Unlock began. From merely 94 cases registered across the city in April, they rose to 314 in August across the city. Police have attributed the recent surge in increased criminal activities to history-sheeters being released to ease overcrowding in prisons.
On an average, in the pre-Covid times, at least 450 criminal offences were registered in the city every month, according to the 2019 data of Navi Mumbai police.
Recently, the Panvel police arrested Rajesh Kaikade alias Raja, 39, who had a long list of crimes against him ranging from murder to gang-rape. Kaikade was released from Taloja prison a few months ago but it took no time for him to fall back into his old habits. He was rearrested for trying to extort a construction material supplier at gunpoint.
Like Kaikade, police said, many habitual offenders were back to committing crimes. In March, the state home minister Anil Deshmukh had announced release of undertrials on parole from across Maharashtra prisons following the decision of Maharashtra High Powered Committee (MHPC). So far, around 10,000 undertrials have been released from the state prisons.
In May, only 117 cases were registered in the city but they doubled next month with 248 reported in June. Most of the offences were thefts, motor vehicle thefts and burglaries.
“It is not so that a person with no criminal record is going out and committing thefts. The criminal mentality and behaviour are important factors for recidivism,” said Sunil Tarmale, sub-inspector at Panvel police station, part of the detection cell.
While 23 burglaries were reported in three months between April and June, 21 cases were registered just in July and 35 in August. While detection is marginally affected due to limited workforce, police are still putting on a brave front.
Similar modus operandi
“In cases like burglaries and thefts, the modus operandi in many cases is similar to the one adopted by previous criminals. In several cases, those criminals recently released from jails were found to be committing the same crimes for which they were imprisoned earlier,” said Dinkar Mohite, senior inspector at CBD Belapur police station.
Some of them were drug addicts and carry out theft to fund their addiction after being released from jail.
While a senior crime branch officer said no data was maintained to quantify the number of recently-released persons committing crimes, he said it was a noticeable trend witnessed across police stations. Officials said they were taking steps to curb this menace.
Police stay vigilant
Suresh Mengade, deputy commissioner of police, zone 1, said, “The trend of recently released undertrials committing street crimes has been noticed. Hence, we are more vigilant than ever. We are conducting nakabandis, gathering intelligence and also conducting raids based on the information we receive.”
Mengade added the crucial part of the process is keeping tab on those released recently and that was being done by police officials maintaining and verifying updated records of the history-sheeters.
The process involves gathering intelligence from informants about the suspects’ latest activities and whether they were staying at their place of residence. “Challenge arises when the accused is traced to outside the city limits. This increases the risk factor for the police officials during the raging pandemic. We have to be extra cautious and at the same time be quick because the accused does not wait for us at the same location and may soon be on the move,” added Tarmale.
Like everything, the ways of interrogation have also changed due to Covid-19. Today, policemen are seen maintaining physical distance from the accused out of fear of infection.
“Once the test for the accused is conducted and report comes negative can the interrogation proceed properly. Most of us cannot even go close to the accused to interrogate properly,” said another officer.
*** Vijay Raghavan, criminologist, is sceptical of the police’s version that most offenders are sliding into recidivism. He says socio-economic conditions are one of the reasons for those committing crimes again. “It is a known fact that those with a criminal record often get re-arrested on suspicion. Ultimately, it has to be proved in the court of law if they are guilty. The other side is that the offenders face social stigma and, at times, even their own families reject them. They find it difficult to find local jobs as they earn a bad name in society. Many come from poor socio-economic background and find themselves with limited job options,” says Raghavan, adding that the prison rehabilitation programme is very limited for under-trials and hence they may get pushed into taking support of earlier contacts and negative peer groups.
*** Vaibhavkumar Ronge, sub-inspector at Khandeshwar police, counters Raghavan’s allegation that the accused are picked up on merely suspicion as proving their involvement is still crucial during the first remand at the magistrate. “With the arrest, we also have to prove to the court that there is an involvement of the accused. This means finding evidence such as CCTV footage, call records and also recovery of stolen property,” Ronge says.
RECENT CASE STUDIES
October 9: Panvel police arrested Rajesh Kaikade, 38 for threatening a building material supplier at gunpoint to extort small-time civil contracts in Karanjade village. The accused is currently out on bail in a 2012 murder case where he, with his co-accused, allegedly murdered the village’s former sarpanch.
September 4: Three men, recently released from Thane prisons, were rearrested for duping scores of persons under a fake bank loan scheme. Police found the accused cheated a few Navi Mumbai residents of at least ₹14 lakh.
August 11: Rabale police arrested two men and recovered four pick-up trucks worth ₹11 lakh from them. The duo committed the crime with two wanted accused while two persons from the gang – one arrested and another wanted – were released during the Covid-19 lockdown from Nashik jail and another prison in Maharashtra.