How do you control petty crime?

Last Wednesday I saw a chain-snatching live. It was late in the evening and traffic was moving at a snail’s pace on Good Shed Road (formally called TCM Royan Road). I was on my way to the in-laws’ place in Rajajinagar. There was an unusually large number of auto rickshaws on the road (may not be that unusual considering it’s a popular road for getting to the railway station and bus stand). We took about twenty minutes to cover the distance of about a kilometer.

The auto rickshaw in front of my car was close to the kerb. The jam meant it was stationary. There was a boy walking on the pavement, maybe in his early teens. I saw him walk closer to the edge as he approached the auto rickshaw. I saw his hand move swiftly, and then his legs. He was speeding into one of the numerous alleyways that stem off from TCM Royan road. It was clear that he had snatched a gold chain that had been worn by a woman in the auto rickshaw.

One man got off the auto rickshaw and ran after the boy. I don’t think he would’ve made much headway, for the boy had too much of a headstart. Also, the thief had escaped into familiar territory, inhabited by familiar people, some of who might have actually encouraged his crime. The chaser didn’t stand a chance.

Make me wonder how one could control such petty crime. The speed at which it all happened, no one would have been able to “get the face” of the thief. Since it was far from an intersection it is unlikely there would’ve been CCTV cameras. The traffic, the twilight, the crowds on the road and the lack of them on the footpath meant the chances of the crime failing were really low. In the worst case, the owner of the chain would have held on to it and the boy would’ve run away empty handed.

I’m sure the crime would have been reported. A gold chain costs a lot, and the family in the auto rickshaw didn’t look particularly well off. But the case would’ve got buried in the midst of several other similar ones. As long as the thief was careful to not strike too often, which would’ve brought him unnecessary attention, there would be no way he would get caught. And given the geography there was little onlookers could do.

So I wonder once again, how are we supposed to control such petty crime? At this moment, I don’t have an answer.

9 thoughts on “How do you control petty crime?”

  1. Near impossible to control unless the thief is one among the regulars in the area; recall Hindi movies where the local cop rounds up the suspect elements for information on larger crimes; they’re mostly small time crooks operating in the area.

    The population on Goods Shed Road is highly migrant; you are right in saying he may not be caught if he does not strike too often in the same area.

    In Delhi, I have heard stories of cell-phones being snatched from people walking on the road talking into them.

    1. He had too much of a headstart and it was “his area”. Fat chance I’d’ve been able to catch him, and i’m no sprinter

  2. only solution is to provide equal opportunities to people so they have a shot of improving their life. of course the kid would have done it for need of money. no one wants to be a thief. i would question that person in the rickshaw as to what on earth she was thinking wearing a gold chain in transit. women are particularly smart in these matters. there is absolutely no harm in carrying the chain in purse or some kind of bag and wearing it near the destination. may not be fool proof, but definitely minimizes attractions. she must anticipate such things will happen. being tough on her, but for me its a simple case of crying over lost items by having the house door open. why keep the house door open in first place ?

    as far as catching the thief is concerned, cops are the best hope. they generally are aware of local vagabounds who are no good. probably take some time assuming cops do their job.

    1. This comment is an insult to all those millions of honest poor people who work hard to make a living for themselves, rather than stealing

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