Car thefts keep rising as other crimes drop
New Delhi: Till September 30 this year, almost every crime in the capital had gone down, except vehicle thefts. From 28,760 cases reported in this period in 2016, the figure has shot up to 30,449 this year.
So, why are police not able to bring down cases of vehicle theft? TOIspoke to a number of investigators who were unanimous that investigations into cases of auto-lifting were lowest on the priority list. This change in attitude has come since the department launched a web application and formed an “e-police station” in 2015 to report the crime.
Now, if your bike or car is stolen, all you have to do is log on to the Delhi police website and give your vehicle’s details. In 21 days, you will get an “untraced” report, using which you can claim insurance.
While the procedure is convenient, it has led to a dangerous situation on the ground. “Not only are insurance companies suffering due to increased payoffs, people who have old cars are incurring losses as well due to the depreciating value,” a senior cop who did not wish to be named revealed.
In fact, insurers had written to the police brass and also met them to step up investigations. What is more detrimental is that police’s information-and-source network is weakening due to decreased interaction with “auto-lifters”, who another officer described as a “repository of actionable intelligence”.
The easier process has created a situation where responsibility has been virtually taken away from the local police station and police-public interaction has been cut down, leading to a no-pressure zone, cops say. It is not that there is no action to recover stolen vehicles. There have been operations by the crime branch and police in which they have recovered many stolen vehicles. However, these are individual cases of vehicle recovery and there is no attempt to go after the gang behind the theft, the officer added.
Delhi police, however, say they take prompt action. PRO Madhur Verma asserts that respective police stations do carry out probes and that police have recovered a lot more vehicles this year than last year. Also, if the probe reveals the role of an organised gang to be involved, the crime branch takes over the probe. “This process has led to double the number of vehicles recoveries than earlier. The records from the e-police stations, in fact, help us analyse the trends or modus operandi,” says DCP Verma. However, police officers that TOI spoke to agree that the app needs to be tweaked so that the responsibility for action on the theft can be passed on to the respective police stations. “This passing the buck has to stop or the situation won't change,” adds another officer.
Motor vehicle theft makes up a fifth of all IPC crimes reported in Delhi and it seems to be getting better organised by the day. “Once a vehicle is stolen, it just takes about three hours for the thieves to cross over into Haryana or UP from any place in Delhi. Then, getting the vehicle to a salvage yard in places such as Meerut takes only about an hour. Some which are not dismantled are driven to Bihar, Jharkhand or the northeastern states where they are sold as second-hand vehicles,” an officer from an anti-auto theft squad explained.