How Pune is fighting back a spurt in cyber crime, writes police chief
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How Pune is fighting back a spurt in cyber crime, writes police chief

It is not just the police who need to be one step ahead in the fight against cyber crime, says Rashmi Shukla.

pune Updated: Jul 05, 2018 15:10 IST
Pune,Pune police,Pune police commissioner
Rashmi Shukla, commissioner of police, Pune. ( Illustration: Shrikrishna Patkar/HT)

A simple innovation has the potential to alter the course of society. And in the time of innovations, society has truly witnessed a transformation that has necessitated an updated system of life and security. Police form the first line of internal security for the citizens of India. The police have to acquaint themselves with changing security concerns in order to prevent, and be instrumental in bringing wrong-doers to justice.

The city has witnessed a spurt in cyber crime and we had to pull up our socks in an effort to tackle the new wave of crime. We organised training programmes on investigations of cyber crime for 125 officers and 303 policemen of all police stations in Pune city. Soon, a police station-level cyber crime investigation unit will also be launched in the city.

However, it is not only the police who need to be one step ahead in the fight against cyber crime. Citizens need to protect themselves and take preventive action as well. We have conducted 72 awareness programmes for 13,737 citizens and continue to hold these sessions for private as well as government institutions, teachers and students.

Not just training, we work closely with a closed group of nodal officers of MSPs, ISPs and the banking sector in order to prevent online financial fraud and aid early detection. In the past year, the cyber cell has managed to recover belongings worth Rs 1,67,21,200 (1.67 crore) and an amount of Rs 1,03,24,000, swindled through various online frauds, was refunded to the rightful owners.

Various lessons were learned in the process of building a strong cyber-crime fighting infrastructure. While the process is under way, we also learned the best way to connect with the workforce of the city is the web and social media. Pune police built a comprehensive one stop for all police work in the city. Through the lost and found portal, citizens have reported 1,36,800 missing article incidents online. A virtual tenant verification system attracted over one lakh citizens. Citizen kiosks were built in the commissionerate office for assistance.

Through the official Twitter handle and Facebook page, citizens have opened a new channel of communication. Not only do we update citizens with traffic conditions, tips and achievements of local police, but also receive feedback and reports of daily problems faced by the citizens from the horse’s mouth.

The virtual world has provided easier options for collection of unpaid traffic violation charges as well. A cashless and paperless system of collection through debit/credit card payments, and various online wallets, was introduced with the help of e-challan in March 2017. A web of close circuit television (CCTV) cameras helps us keep a watch on the city’s traffic and criminal violators. Within a year of introduction, approximately 55% of violations were paid using e-challan. In 2018, so far, the number has reached 70%.

Pune traffic police has initiated a number of awareness programme to promote maximum use of helmets in schools and colleges, IT companies, various short movies and street plays, along with imposing fines. In an effort to curb the known problem of resistance to the use of helmets, 34,400 people were booked and fines of Rs 1,73,00,000 were collected for not wearing helmets.

All this work is done by a robust, but limited work force. While we try to be present at every possible place, few situations make it next to impossible to be present at all times. Especially when women are concerned, I believe there are various ways to get help, if the local police are indisposed.

The City Safe mobile application was launched by Pune police to enable citizens to share their location with the police control room at the push of a button. The application sends an alert to the nearest police station, in case of an emergency, thereby reducing response time. Upon pressing the SOS button, officers of the concerned police station will send constables to the location. We also have a dedicated women helpline - 1091 - which is available to women 24x7. Phone lines are manned by well-trained policewomen, who handle all calls with great caution and care.

A women’s assistance cell was established in the commissionerate premises with the aim to provide legal assistance to women in crises. The women’s cell has a staff which includes female doctors, female advocates, female professors and social workers. In addition, the Damini beat marshal scheme was introduced on July 8, 2015, to curb crimes against women on the streets. One police sub inspector and 33 female police officers are assigned on regular beat marshal duty under the supervision of senior police inspector of the women’s cell. These foot soldiers regularly patrol areas such as schools, colleges, chain snatching points, gardens, densely populated zones, etc. The women of Pune should feel free to approach them.

In response to crimes against women working in various sectors, the Pune city police has introduced a new safety program called ‘Buddy Cop’, which runs through WhatsApp groups. A group for women of an organisation, administrated by a police officer, provides a single point of contact to the working women’s group for prompt responses. Instead of visiting police stations, women now directly contact their ‘buddy cop’ to report any escalation regarding their security.

So far, 1,236 groups have been formed with 3,16,000 working women members. In 2017, the initiative earned the city police an award from Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). It aims to extend personal safety to working women and instil a sense of trust in the police force. I believe it has been successful.

For example, a woman working in an IT company was getting calls and being sent vulgar messages from an unknown number. When the Buddy Cop was informed and took to tracking the number, it was revealed that a distant family member was responsible. After much consideration, she decided not to register a complaint against the relative. In yet another instance, woman who worked in Viman nagar felt she was being stalked as she found one person always near her office. She was suspicious that he was following her. She got in touch with the admin of the Buddy Cop group that she was on, and the beat marshals present in that area were informed. They reached the spot in a few minutes and spoke to the guy who she felt was stalking her. It turned out that he had some work in the same area around the same time.

A similar initiative for children was initiated through ‘Police Kaka’. To bridge the gap between students and police officials, every school/college has a ‘Police Kaka’, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI)-rank officer whose contact details are prominently put up on school and college campuses. Students can directly call ‘Police Kaka’ in case of security-related incidents. Since its launch, 10 offences were registered and more than 110 minor issues have been resolved by Police Kaka.

To explain the complexity of problems solved by Police Kaka, I quote an example: A Class XI student of a junior college in Mundhwa had to be counselled by Police Kaka following a complaint that he had tried to outrage the modesty of a woman teacher in the institute. In another incident, a group of students of a college on Ahmednagar road was harassing their female classmates and did not allow two girls to sit on the benches. The students did not acknowledge the pleas of the girls and their class teacher. The girl students then called up Police Kaka and a policeman rushed to the school. The group of the students was summoned to the principal’s office and counselled.

Along with the children, youngsters, women and men of the city, Pune is known as a pensioner’s paradise with aa maximum number of senior citizens settling down in Pune, post retirement. Old age brings with it an onset of loneliness, insecurity and medical problems. To provide them a platform for redressal of their grievances, Pune police beganb dedicated senior citizen’s cell with toll free number, where they can call about security concerns as well as any other form of assistance. Approximately 16,000 senior citizens are registered with the cell and given an identification card with all details. Police also do home visits to check their well being. This year, the senior citizen helpline has received 4,340 complaints. This cell has also helped a number of senior citizens get their property back from relatives or children who promised to look after them, but later refused and abandoned them. In 2018, FICCI recognised this initiative as well.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 15:08 IST