Chennai and crimes: The city police's demeanour isn't instilling confidence

Violent crimes occur because of lack of visible policing
Chennai and crimes: The city police's demeanour isn't instilling confidence
Chennai and crimes: The city police's demeanour isn't instilling confidence
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“Chennai is bleeding. Where are the cops? What are the police doing? Is there a rule of law in Chennai?” These are some of the questions that are being raised by many following Friday’s horrific murder of a young techie at the Nungambakkam railway station.  The otherwise peaceful and safe city has seen a spate of brutal murders in the last two months.

Some of the murders have been committed in broad daylight and the audacity of criminals has left the people of Chennai in a state of shock. Chain-snatchers, contract killers, kidnappers and robbers seem to be enjoying a free run in the city.

The reason - utter disregard for the law. But why are these anti-social elements getting emboldened by the day? The answer is simple - violent crimes occur because of lack of visible policing.

One can't blame the local police for everything that is going wrong. The blame and accountability has to be fixed at the highest level. The top ranking officers are responsible for the safety of the city and its citizens.

Officers like S Sripal, Walter Devaram, K Vijaykumar, R Natraj, JK Tripathy and several others had set a different standard when it came to city policing.

There was a time when the city police Commissioners would visit the scene of the crime immediately after an incident. A visit by the Commissioner of Police would send shivers down the spine of both anti-social elements and police officers on the ground.

Senior crime reporters recall how Sripal and Walter Devaram would keep law and order under control in the city limits by keeping a tight vigil on gangs and would use different techniques to keep anti-social elements at bay. Both Sripal and Devaram were masters when it came to city policing and would know the topography of the city at the back of their hand.

“Devaram would begin his day at 4 am by walking alone in the streets of Chennai with a walkie-talkie. Daily briefings on the law and order situation would happen on the move and if a major crime occurred, Devaram will be on the spot,” says an officer who served under him.

The psychological aspects of a visit by the Police Commissioner at the scene of crime would instil faith in the minds of the people. There used to be a time when officers like Vijaykumar, would go on city patrolling along with his subordinates. This would send across a clear message to the anti-social elements and they would be kept under a tight leash.

Things have changed now with the advancement of technology. Police can monitor the crime scene live with the help of 3G and 4G data services and use Google map to understand the exact location. On the one hand, it's good to use technology but on the other hand, a physical presence of a top CoP at the crime scene does wonders, say insiders.

Few years ago, a murder in any area in the city limits would be considered an embarrassment for the police who are on duty. Today, murders involving gangs and hired killers are not taken seriously, unless and until it involves a high-profile person.

Another major factor is the lack of communication among officials. Earlier, the Commissioner would directly interact with Deputy Commissioners but now a strict hierarchy is being followed. An officer says, “It's mostly one way traffic. We only receive orders and there is no provision for us to air our views or ideas.” An insider says monthly crime review meetings have become a rarity now.

The lack of visible policing and top officers consciously keeping away from the media has caused irreparable damage to the image of the police force.  A Chennai-based TV journalist points out, “The previous Commissioner of Police never interacted with the visual media even once on any critical issue.”

“The top officials assume that their political masters want officers to maintain a low profile. They assume that their faces should not be shown in the media when something goes wrong. Neither has the CM's office issued any such instruction nor is there any such rule. It's just that the officers do it to be on a safer side," says a khaki insider.

It's completely understandable that in a state like Tamil Nadu the bureaucracy is at the mercy of the politicians. But the big question is - Are top police officers failing citizens in an attempt to woo their masters? The need of the hour is clearly visible policing.

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