Cops have arrested nearly 7,000 criminals in the past month just by keeping an eye on election rallies, where candidates often rope them in to add numbers to crowds or influence locals; petty crime has also reduced
While the general assumption would be that pre-election months are a testing time for cops in the city, statistics have revealed that the Mumbai Police have been enjoying a surprising windfall of arrests in the past few weeks.
Cops said that many politicians involve petty criminals in their campaigns, as these criminals use their clout to ensure that large crowds gather in the rallies and campaigns, in exchange for food, money and alcohol. Pic for representation
The sudden rise in arrests has been matched by a slump in crime rates. The policemen attribute this trend to the crucial role played by petty criminals and history sheeters in election campaigns.
Police officials in the city believe that the sudden circulation of staggering amounts of cash during poll campaigns veers petty criminals away from their usual crimes, and steers them towards political parties, where there is work — and easy money — waiting for them.
The policemen have also revealed that nabbing these criminals has become quite an effortless affair for them — instead of combing the lanes and bylanes of the city in search of absconding or wanted criminals, they keep an eye on political rallies, where they are frequently spotted.
As part of their pre-election drive, the Mumbai Police have detained close to 7,000 criminals out of the 20,000 who were wanted for a plethora of crimes. The officials claim that they made most of the arrests just by keeping an eye on the political rallies that abound in the city these days.
Mumbai Police spokesperson, DCP Mahesh Patil, said, “We have arrested and detained almost 7,000 people in just one month. Our drive has been on for the past month and will continue till the elections. We don’t want to hamper campaigns or stop anyone from casting votes, but according to the law of the land, criminals should be arrested first.”
Cops said that many politicians rope in these petty criminals for their election campaigns, as the latter wield considerable influence. In exchange for food, money and alcohol, these criminals use their clout to ensure that large crowds gather in the rallies and campaigns. There are more than 20,000 criminals in the city who are wanted or absconding.
They are either wanted for crimes they have committed, or for not appearing for hearings in court after being bailed out, or for escaping while out on parole. Of them, the cops have already nabbed around 7,000. More history-sheeters are being rounded up each day, in the countdown to the polls.
The cops say that these criminals are also likely to commit poll-related crimes, or incite violence during the elections. A police source said, “For politicians contesting these elections, these criminals are very useful. They use them to influence people on a local level. They even distribute money to people, through them.”
At Bandra police station, the list of wanted and absconding criminals has 700 names. According to the local police, these local criminals become active during the elections, making their arrests essential. “These criminals play a major role in rallies, when politicians campaign on the streets or go from door to door asking for votes.
Criminals use their influence to add numbers to the rally, even threatening people to vote for the politician they work for. For these services, the criminals are paid, also given food and alcohol by the politicians,” said an officer from Vile Parle police station.
Recent statistics acquired by mid-day show a noticeable slump in crimes in the run-up to elections. With easy money available from politicians for poll rallies and road shows, the criminals find it easier to work for them, than planning and executing crimes. They rake in between Rs 500 and 1,000 in a single day, with none of the risks associated with crimes.
“Chain snatchers, many of whom live in Kalyan and Ambivali, make a lot of money at this time. Candidates fetch them in buses or tempos early in the morning to attend sabhas and rallies.
They are paid R500 per day for attending these rallies. Anybody between 15 and 65 years of age can do this work,” said Rohan Jadhav, who has been organising rallies for a leading party.
According to sources, criminals from the slums of Govandi, Shivaji Nagar, Vakola, Mira Road, Bhayender, Bandra, Nagpada are also making a quick buck in this way.
Statistics released by the Mumbai Police show a dip in crime rates during election season (see box below). Candidates from leading parties started filing their nominations and campaigning for the elections from April 1.
“When you are contesting elections, you need to reach out to people in your constituency. To do that, you need people. So we employ people and pay them for it,” said a leader from Shiv Sena, on condition of anonymity.
DCP Patil confirmed this, but clarified: “It is not only the elections, but also the efforts made by Mumbai Police that has reduced crimes.
We have arrested around 13,000 people under various sections as preventive measures for the elections. We have seized around 45 illegal weapons and 1,371 legal weapons.
Around 7,238 warrants were issued, of which we successfully executed around 5,063. There are around 9,879 booths in the city, of which 281 are critical and we have drawn a plan to secure them as well.”
Man arrested with AK-47 near Dongri
One person has been arrested from Dongri area of south Mumbai with an AK-47. However, both the crime branch cell and the police are tight-lipped about the arrest and not revealing any details.
According to sources, the accused, identified as Mohammed Illyas, was detained with the weapon, on the eve of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in the city.
A crime branch officer said, “You have to understand that it is a very sensitive time, with the Lok Sabha election approaching. We have confiscated the weapon and are investigating to find its source and will arrest the importers.”
The crime branch and Mumbai police have seized around 45 weapons from the time the elections were declared. “There has been a great effort by the teams, but if we can go further and make more arrests, put the right people behind bars who procure the weapon and the reasons for it, only then can we consider our work to be complete,” said a crime branch official.
Number of chain snatchings recorded in the first 2 weeks of April, down from 90 in the same period in February
Number of vehicle thefts recorded in the first 2 weeks of April, down from 171 in the same period in February