A head constable from the Chennai division has come under immense praise from the police department after almost single-handedly busting a three-year-old bike theft racket in the state. Sharavanakumar, in addition to retrieving 26 high-end Royal Enfield bikes, has also managed to arrest 10 persons involved in the crime. The head constable's investigation began on August 6 this year, when an old friend who is also from the police force, complained that his Royal Enfield bike had been stolen. Sharavanakumar, instead of just registering this as another theft, identified an ongoing pattern in the case.
"When I was attached to the Abhiramapuram station, I received two similar complaints of Royal Enfield bikes being stolen," Sharavanakumar tells TNM. "On hearing this complaint from a friend, I immediately enquired with other police officials on the crime beat and discovered that 24 stations had reports of bikes belonging to the same brand being stolen. These bikes are not good getaway vehicles, so they were being stolen to be sold," he adds.
In past investigations, says the officer, the trail had gone dry because the bikes were taken into areas without CCTV surveillance and the department lost track of what happened. The thieves had identified blindspots and were using it to mask their hideouts.
"When we realised this, I decided to constantly track down the vehicles. What followed was an investigation that lasted two months, and the surveillance of 56 days worth of CCTV footage," explains Sharavanakumar. "It was a wild goose chase that had a successful end," he adds.
On the morning of August 6, at 5 am was when the first accused were tracked via CCTV footage.
The accused had taken the police officer's bike to Shenoy Nagar before entering a blind spot in a housing board there. According to the investigator, this was done on purpose as the area had history sheeters and the move would confuse the police. It took two days for the culprits to then move the bike from this area and they hoped that the police would have lost track of the case by then. But the head constable was on their trail.
"From the housing board, another team took the bike and then moved towards Santhome. For another hour, they don't leave Santhome, once again to shake off anyone following their movements. But soon they are tracked via CCTV at Pattinapakkam. This entire process alone took 15 days," says Sharavanakumar. "At the same time, another Royal Enfield vehicle took the same route, confirming our suspicions about the modus operandi," he adds.
The culprits then once again went into areas such Nachikuppam and Dumeelkuppam to divert suspicion as there were history sheeters there.
"It was all very professional and well planned," says the head constable. "They stole the bike by hot wiring it and then made a fake key to avoid suspicion on the roads," he adds.
The culprits were next spotted on Thiruvanmiyur after which they crossed the Uthandi toll. The people riding the bikes were changed often but the police still managed to keep track.
Once the modus operandi was clear, they tracked down all the cellphone numbers of persons who were in the vicinity at the same time and date as the culprits on the footage.
"From over two lakh numbers we got, we filtered it to 145. We then checked the numbers one by one and brought it further down to 19. From here, when we tried to figure out the identity of those who were using the number, we realised the culprits had used fake ID proofs," says Sharavanakumar. "We then used methods that I can't reveal (as it may tip off criminals) to identify the accused and confirm who the receiver is and who the identifier is," he adds.
The officer, with the help of a sub-inspector named Sudhakar, then figured out that these men were staying at lodges and compared the numbers they had procured to the details submitted to the lodge's reception.
"We caught three accused this way 10 days ago and they admitted to committing the crimes. Based on the details they gave, we have arrested another four persons. We are confident that we will retrieve all the bikes and arrest everyone involved," says the head constable. "The accused were selling the bikes that originally cost upto Rs 2.5 lakh for Rs 30,000 and Rs 40,000. They had a Whatsapp group to coordinate the sales," he adds.
Sharavanakumar's hard work has not gone unnoticed. His seniors, including the Joint Commissioner of the east division R Sudhakar, have praised him on social media. Chennai Commissioner Mahesh Agarrwal personally visited him and handed over a cash reward for his excellent investigation.
Royal catch! Kudos to Head Constable Saravanan of Greater Chennai police, who single handedly busted a gang that targeted and stole only Royal Enfield motorbikes bikes. 26 bikes recovered and are ready to be reunited with their owners. pic.twitter.com/ktmOaByxifâ€” R Sudhakar IPS (@ips_sudhakar) October 17, 2020