Chandigarh: Spurt in chain-grabbing instances leaves residents rattled

CHANDIGARH: It was March 8 afternoon, when Preeti Kaur, 45, returning home from the market in Daddumajra, saw a motorcycle slowing down in front of her. The bike was still in motion when one of its riders suddenly attacked her and snatched her gold chain with a jerk throwing a screaming Preeti off balance.

Bleeding profusely, Preeti fell on the ground holding her neck that had suffered a deep cut and saw the snatchers disappear in full public view. Preeti had to be admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Since then, Preeti’s scarred neck has become a sort of symbol of the fear snatchers have spread into the hearts of the citizens and the police’s failure to put an end to the growing menace.

Even as the Punjab and Haryana high court has pulled up the Chandigarh police for letting the spree go on unabated, while directing it to end these crimes, Chandigarh seems to have turned into a safe haven for snatchers, who in many cases have even entered the houses of residents to commit the crime.

This year alone, the city has witnessed 69 snatching cases till March 22, almost one case every day.

The number of cases of snatching has been on the rise. The maximum number of snatchings ever reported in a year was in 2017 when the city saw 238 cases. And since 2014, the city has seen a whopping 768 cases which is far too high a number when compared to cases reported in Mohali and Panchkula.

In Chandigarh, maximum incidents happened in the southern part of the city with Sectors 37, 39, 40, 41 topping the list of snatching cases.

TOI spoke to a number of present and former Chandigarh and Punjab cops, according to whom lack of ground policing, taking snatching as a crime lightly, poor investigation skills, police’s failure in instilling fear among criminals, porous borders, dependence on non-working and low-quality cameras, poor conviction rates, and weaker IPC sections are some of the major reasons why Chandigarh has become a favourite haunt of snatchers.

“These days, I see too much of a dependence on technology at the cost of ground policing. The technology has also not helped the cause when it comes to curbing crime. There are hardly any cases in which a snatcher was first caught on CCTV camera and then identified and finally arrested,” said former DSP Jagbir Singh, who spent over 35 years in police.

According to Jagbir, there has to be a fine balance between the use of technology and the ground policing in busting criminal gangs.

“The police need to adopt the old-fashioned ways of curbing crime and balance it with the technology. Too much dependence on one method will be a failure which is happening right now. It’s high time for the police to improve its beat system,” added Jagbir, who also advocates compensation for snatching victims.

Another reason, the cops cite for the growth in snatching incidents, is Chandigarh’s porous borders with Panchkula and Mohali.

Cops said that around 70% cases of snatchings are reported from southern sectors or near the borders of the city.

“Miscreants snatch gold chains, mobile phones and purses and flee into Mohali and Panchkula with no one to stop them on the border. I strongly believe that police presence should be increased on the borders and the coordination among police force in the Tricity should be made better,” said a senior Chandigarh cop, who didn’t want to be named.

A number of senior cops also said that the administration has installed 100 CCTV cameras at 20 junctions in the city, but the equipment cannot read the number plate during night hours and lack good vision quality in the day too.

Vijay Pal Singh, former DSP, UT, said there are two important reasons behind the spurt in snatchings –– one is drug addiction and other is unemployment among youths.

“Police should increase vigil in and around colonies and paying guest accommodations in the city to curb this menace. Police should strengthen their ground level policing. Police have to build their informers in public, rather than relying on cameras. Now there is big gap between police and public. Internal politics of department is also responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation in the city,” said Singh.

Police officers said another big reason behind the increase of snatching cases in city is adding weaker section in snatching cases.

The criminals always take advantage of weaker sections and get bail easily and again start committing snatchings.

SSP Nilambari Vijay Jagdale

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Why have police failed to curb snatchings in the city?

It’s not the case. Many snatchers have been arrested in January and February. Police stations of Sectors 11, 17, 26, 36, 39, Maloya, IT park and crime branch police have arrested many snatchers and number of cases have been traced. In some cases, police have got the CCTV footage of the accused and would be arrested soon. Snatchers committing crime repeatedly in south sub-division have been identified and they will be behind bars soon.

What steps have you taken to make vulnerable southern sectors secure?

Special attention has been paid to crimeprone spots. Reserve force has been provided to southern sectors for this purpose. Surprise check is conducted at all barriers of the city. PCR patrolling timing has also been increased. Cops patrol inner roads of the city too. Also SDPO and SHO will visit all the crime spot.

Is lack of coordination among Tricity police giving snatchers a free run?

UT Police is coordinating with police stations of Mohali and Panchkula. They have shared their list of snatchers with us and we are checking their involvement in city snatchings. In some snatching incidents, we have got pictures of accused from CCTV cameras. We are hopeful to send them behind bars very soon.

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