Friday, May 20, 2011

Cops and robbers: dumb and dumber

Early this month, my sister Renuka's Mitsubishi Pajero was stolen from her building's compound. A compound ought to be secure, but for some reason this one has a gate at the back. The guard was hanging out, or napping, at the front door while thieves managed to break into the car and drive it out the back gate.
By the time the robbery was discovered at least five hours had passed and the thieves could easily have been at the state's border. It was pretty devastating. Renuka and my brother-in-law Ashutosh filed a complaint, but the police said a professional gang had been targetting Pajeros for four years and chances of the SUV being found were slim.
Then, a week ago, Renuka received a call from Jalpaiguri police station saying they had her car. Jalpaiguri is on the Nepal / Bhutan border, so the thieves apparently aimed to drive it right out of India. They'd crossed a dozen states seemingly without hassle, but were stopped in West Bengal by cops who felt they didn't appear to have the means to be driving an SUV. They asked the men, one Nepali, one Bihari, for their papers, which were not in order. They searched the car and found, wait for it, the car's original license plates in the dickey. Guys who couldn't throw out license plates were unlikely to have erased chassis numbers. The police traced the Mitsubishi dealer through the vehicle identification number; the dealer gave them my sister's contact. And so it was that, out of the blue, Renuka got a call that lifted the depression which had hung about her house for two weeks.
Maybe the thieves believed they could bribe their way out of any tough spot. Maybe the police were more alert and more honest because West Bengal's administration has just changed after 34 years of Communist rule. Whatever the story behind their arrest, it was very nice of the robbers to preserve evidence of their crime, and to keep it in the first place anybody would look.
The car hasn't actually been returned yet. After impounding it, the Jalpaiguri police asked for the original FIR to be faxed to them. The Versova cops reluctantly agreed to do it, but then forgot, or decided that helping to convict criminals was not part of their job description. Finally, Ashutosh faxed his own copy of the complaint, and that should hopefully do the trick.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has shown the world exactly how incompetent it is by making public a list of terrorists and criminals it claims are being sheltered by Pakistan, only for the media to discover one fearsome militant hanging out in a suburb of Bombay, and another lodged in Arthur Road jail. No doubt more of the missing terrorists will soon be found in plain sight. When I read stories like this, I wonder how police manage to catch any criminals at all. Well, the story of my sister's car indicates that, if our cops are dumb, our thieves are often dumber.


Subrata Majumdar said...

Girish - your sister getting back her her car was miraculous in a country where cops and thieves team up to do the heist.

Here is a thread from a car forum of a Pajero stolen from Matunga. It reads like a whodunnit (and being on a public forum, the thieves could also have been reading, if not contributing to the events. That would be a dark comedy though)


Girish Shahane said...

Wow, Subrata, that's an extraordinary account. Somebody should put together all gtabombay's posts. And the story should've made the papers. As I said, the Versova police were less than co-operative in the matter, which ties in very we ll with the way the police behaved in gtabombay's case.

Girish Shahane said...

Also, she hasn't got her car back yet. A few years ago, the stereo was stolen from another car she owned; the police found it, I identified it, but then they gave us one court date after another, and said we could only get the stereo back after all those procedures were completed. I realised it was just a wild goose chase, not worth the price of a stereo. There were dozens of stereos in gunny bags in the police room I was called to. Wonder how many owners actually got their music systems back.

Anonymous said...

SUVs get stolen routinely around election times, apparently to be used by political parties. A friend's Scorpio was stolen from around his Shivaji Park house around the general elections, not very far from where you are.

Anonymous said...

And another recent instance of CBI's bungling is of them sending a team to arrest the Purulia arms-dropping accused with a warrant well beyond its expiry date.

Girish Shahane said...

True, Anon; and a car was stolen from the lane in which Raj Thackeray lives, a street which was very closely guarded, or so we thought, back then.