Are you going to Dadar? First, take care of your cell phone

Over 200 mobile phone thefts recorded by Shivaji Park police in past three months; in contrast, all robbery cases in Andheri West amount to 108 for the same period

People shop outside Dadar station in November last year. Woodpecker/Ashish Raje

Dadar West, one of Mumbai’s busiest pockets, has become a hunting ground for mobile thieves, with more than 200 cases reported in the past three months. Known for its flower and vegetable markets and its proximity to the Siddhivinayak Temple, thousands of people from all over the city flock to Dadar every day, leaving it densely populated. Police also attributed the high number of cases to Commissioner Sanjay Pandey’s “no burking” policy.

People have lost their phones while walking on crowded streets, shopping or traveling by bus. In some cases, even people queuing to use public restrooms were not spared. According to Mumbai Police data, Shivaji Park Police Station recorded only 2 cases of theft in January and 3 cases next month. This may have been due to COVID restrictions which had reduced public travel. As the pandemic waned and people were back on the streets, the police station recorded 9 cases in March. Then the thieves went to kill.

In April the number rose to 80 from 67 in May, with 54 phones diverted so far this month from the Dadar area. In contrast, DN Nagar Police Station having jurisdiction over Andheri West recorded 108 cases of theft, including of mobile phones and other items, during the same period. The number rises to 18 for Andheri East.

Dadar West reported only 5 cases of theft in January-February.  Representation photo
Dadar West reported only 5 cases of theft in January-February. Representation photo

Omkar Salaskar’s iPhone 13 worth Rs 50,000 was stolen on June 16 while out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. In his complaint, the 18-year-old Dadar resident said he kept the mobile phone in the glove compartment of his car because its battery had run down. Later, he went for a late night drive around the city. As he got out of the car at 6 a.m., he found the phone missing.

On June 21, 27-year-old T Chakrapan was waiting for a BEST bus at the Plaza Cinema stop. As the neighborhood was crowded, he had put his cell phone in the left pocket of his pants. After getting on the bus, he realized that someone had stolen his phone, which he had bought a month ago.

That evening, Kiral Patil’s cell phone was picked up while shopping. In her complaint, the teacher said there was a huge crowd at 4pm and she kept her phone in her friend’s bag for safekeeping. About half an hour later, Patil’s husband called his friend’s phone to inform her that the complainant’s phone was off. Patil looked for her phone in the bag as well as the stores she had shopped at, but it was nowhere to be found.

“Action on all complaints”

Sources within the police department said Pandey came up with a ‘no burking’ policy after taking over as Mumbai police chief, which resulted in a large number of FIRs. When cops fire a complainant without recording their complaints, it’s called “burking” in police parlance.

“We have deployed our personnel to all robbery-prone locations, including gathering places as well as bus stops, to combat this threat,” Area 5 Deputy Police Commissioner Pranay Ashok said.

The police had some success and caught a few robbers who operated individually and committed crimes to fund their drug addiction. “Besides monitoring CCTV cameras, we also instructed our staff to board BEST buses and alert commuters to this threat,” an officer from Shivaji Park Police Station said.

Number of mobile phone thefts in Dadar West so far this month

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