Car thefts keep ris­ing as other crimes drop

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NEWS NET­WORK

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.

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