Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Partner with police for safe neighbourhood

Partner with police for safe neighbourhood
Jagadish Angadi

Are our neighbourhoods safe? Do we feel secure within our homes? Are we prepared for the next strike by a savage criminal lurking somewhere? Bangaloreans, robbed of the cozy “Safe City” environment of yore, are forced to ask themselves these probing yet critical questions. With the crime graph soaring like never before, they are now faced with an option: Partner with the police through practical, workable ideas to secure themselves or face the ‘criminal’ music!

Mounting cases of murders, extortions, chain-snatching, vehicle- thefts, robbe ries... did somebody say Bangalore was once one of India’s safest cities? “What is most shocking is many of these crimes take place in neighbourhood, and people staying next doors will be unaware. One of the biggest challenges before the City police is to prevent neighbourhood crimes and involve public in the process,” this remark by a police officer sums up the situation.

The City was small and population was manageable during 1990s. With rapid urbanisation and industrialisation came people from all over the world in droves. This changed the entire social structure and adversely affected primary relations. Over a period of time, thieves exploited this scenario and started indulging in neighbourhood crime, analysed a few officers.

Bike thefts, burglaries, robberies and chain snatching are the most frequent neighbourhood crimes. Senior citizens, lone women and children are often the victims. The culprits are either unemployed or drug addicts and out to make quick money.

The causes
Blaming the police has become a habit. As ACP Frazer Town Sub-Division BB Ashok Kumar puts it, most people have forgotten their duty to inform the police about unlawful activities and suspicious movements in their areas. They have even forgotten to maintain cordial relationships with their neighbours. Criminals are taking advantage of this, he said.
Negligence by public is another major invitation for the criminals. On many occasions, people forget to lock their houses and shut windows properly. They park vehicles outside the house compound and go out. This makes the thieves’ job that much more easy.

People have stopped sharing vital information with the police for the fear of becoming witnesses in courts. Twenty-five years ago, the public voluntarily shared vital information about suspicious movement of people and vehicles. But in the last two decades, people have mastered the legal system and realised that they would be wasting time and energy if dragged to court. “They should understand the importance of their relationship with police. Police and public have to work together in controlling crime,” Ashok Kumar avers.
Staff shortage in the police department is cited as another factor for the rising neighbourhood crimes.

Forty per cent of the officials are posted for VIP and security duties. There is only one police constable for 1000, citizens. Some police officers don’t mingle with the public easily. All these have widened the gap between the police and the public.

Failure of schemes
In the past, the City police had launched schemes like Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and Love Thy Neighbour. But they did not survive. Facilities given under the scheme were misused. For instance, the Special Police Officer cards issued to a few officers got to the hands of criminals, who produced them at liquor shops for free drinks. The cards were later withdrawn.

Crime Prevention
Here’s how citizens can help the police, as the officers put it: Keeping contact numbers of police officers and stations, giving feedback to police on crimes and the culprits involved, and develop proper communication channels with the police.
One most effective way to deal with crime-related problems is to evolve a neighbourhood watch scheme. Establish a Neighbourhood Watch Programme where residents are alert to notice suspicious activities during both daytime and night hours.

Neighbours should check in periodically (daily) with senior citizens and others who are shut-inside. The well-being of the neighbourhood is everyone’s concern. Its up to the residents to tackle the criminals.


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