Delhi’s bike-borne chain snatchers – targeting the vulnerable

By Sumit Kumar Singh, IANS,

New Delhi : It was a busy afternoon and Harsh Apreja Singh was returning home with her young son when two men on a motorcycle sped up, snatched her chain and fled, leaving her screaming for help. Another instance of a woman attacked by men masked behind helmets who strike in all corners of the city, at all times of day.

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The chain snatchers of Delhi are fast, come in twos on motor bikes – the rider and his associate on the pillion – mostly wearing black helmets and know the roads like the back of their hands.

Be it the Lutyens Zone, one of India’s most secured areas, or the ever busy premises of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, women, particularly those walking alone, are vulnerable.

The chain snatchers know every police picket in the city and every side road through which they can get away after the “act” before the long arm of the law reaches them.

“It was around 1 p.m. Monday. I was returning home in the Geeta Colony area with my son from his school. As we were nearing home, a bike came fast from behind, my chain was snatched from my neck, and they escaped,” Harsh, 40, told IANS.

“It (the snatching) was so fast that I could not identify the men. They were wearing black helmets,” Harsh said.

A similar incident occurred last week Friday when two bike-borne criminals snatched the wedding chain from a working woman’s neck in broad daylight in south Delhi’s Green Park area, hardly 50 metres away from a police picket.

“I was walking to my office from the Green Park Metro station when a motorcycle cruised by. The man on the pillion snatched my ‘mangal sutra’,” Prathiba Raju said.

When the bikers sped away, Raju gave chase on foot.

“I ran behind the speeding bike shouting for help. But no one, not even the policemen at the nearby picket, responded. They just stood there watching,” she said in anger.

M.B. Laxmi, wife of the personal secretary of a minister, was attacked a mere half a kilometre away from Parliament House March 24.

“She was crossing the road with her two kids near the Reserve Bank of India building on the way to the school in the morning. Two men riding on a black Bajaj Pulsar bike snatched her chain and fled,” said a senior police officer.

According to Delhi Police crime statistics, till February this year, snatching cases came down to 197 from 240 during same period last year.

In 2010 there were 1,596 cases, an increase of almost 24 percent from 1,289 in 2009.

These “unidentified” snatchers are mostly young and they meticulously target their prey, say police officials.

“We do an analysis of the areas where snatching incidents usually take place. Temporary pickets are put to keep tab on every biker passing that way,” Deputy Commissioner of Police O.P. Mishra told IANS.

According to him, police have made a database on the attacks and the areas where they happen.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Chhaya Sharma said: “There are regular patrolling teams at roads with many bylanes. We also increase patrolling in areas where marriages take place. With summer setting in, the patrolling has increased during morning and afternoon hours as roads are sometimes deserted during that time.”

One of Sharma’s teams recently nabbed a 30-year-old man involved in eight cases.

“He said he had eight girlfriends whom he sought to impress with the money from his illegal activities. Eight cases of snatching were worked out after his arrest,” said Sharma.

“They (the snatchers) basically love a lavish lifestyle and to meet the expenses they resort to such crimes,” she added.

“Recently, we apprehended some Class 12 students, who were appearing for board examinations,” she said.

According to police, it is always advisable to walk on the pavement and be always alert.

“Avoiding wearing jewellery is not a solution. There must be more awareness about what could possibly happen while on the road,” said Priyadarshini, a senior executive at a Delhi-based company.

“We must stand and fight these assailants. We must chase these guys,” she urged fellow Delhiites.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be contacted at [email protected])