According to the data provided by the Railway Police, around one-third of the accused, i.e. 93 out of the 310 caught in 2016, were from other states, making it even hard for the department to nab the offenders. The police often coordinate with their counterparts in other states to arrest such culprits.
“We have a database of habitual offenders. Police teams often travel to other states to coordinate with the local police there to zero in on the culprits,” said Superintendent of police Vijayakumar.
In Chennai division alone, there are 83 sub-urban stations and the government railway police department has a strength of 700 personnel. However, about 290 posts are lying vacant.
“Most of the crimes are committed when the trains are in motion. This makes it easy for the perpetrators to escape to a neighbouring state. In several cases, the culprit many even get on and off several trains after the theft,” he said.
“We solve cases mostly using conventional methods. Mobile phone theft, chain snatching and bag lifting are the most recurring crimes,” he added. Interestingly, there are a few regular offenders, who search for targets among the crowds inside the trains and railway stations, on the police radar.
“One of the accused still on the run is ‘Police’ Gopi. The 30-year-old man is mostly seen clad in kakhi trousers and hence the nickname ‘police’. Gopi is from Arakkonam and has a number of chain snatching cases against him,” said Vijayakumar.
Bag lifting is another serious and recurring offence. Two women, Anitha and Jancy from Tiruvallur are notorious for this. “They get into a busy train pretending to be two ordinary passengers and fix a target. They carry a small knife, using which they will cut the bags open and steal the valuables. The duo would then mix in the crowd and escape from the spot,” he said.
Some of the railway stations are busy round the clock, which makes passengers vulnerable to chain snatching and theft. “Detecting and solving crimes in railway stations can be done more efficiently if there is CCTV surveillance on the premises. As of now there 80 cameras installed inside Chennai Central and 12 in Chennai Beach. Egmore, Tambaram and Mambalam are the other stations that have the facility. The remaining stations do not have them yet,” said an RPF officer.