COVID-19: Corona chased away crime in Chandigarh, but only for a bit

Faced with a lockdown and the attendant risk of infection, criminals lay low, and the crime rate plummeted, but no sooner did the unlock happen than the gun-wielding goons came out.

If there was one good fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, it was its dampening effect on crime and criminals. Faced with a lockdown and the attendant risk of infection, criminals lay low, and the crime rate plummeted, but no sooner did the unlock happen than the gun-wielding goons came out. It is because of this bunch of trigger-happy young men that the city police personnel remained on their toes for the latter half of the year.

Liquor business received a lot of attention from criminals this year– the brazen firing at the house of liquor tycoon Arvind Singla’s brother in Sector 33, the subsequent firing at a liquor vend of Ram Avtar Batra in Sector 9 in broad daylight, and the murderous attempt on a former liquor contractor Sandeep Kumar in Sector 25, the incidents were among the most public attempts to put the fear of God in the liquor lobby.

Although the UT police can pat its back for solving these cases, it had a tough time taming interstate gangsters, including those lodged behind bars but with deep roots in the capital of the two states of Haryana and Punjab.

Gangsters like Lawrence Bishnoi, Dilpreet Singh Dhahan, alias Dilpreet Baba, Sukhpreet Singh Budha, Sampat Nehra, Dipu Banur and others were said to be behind many incidents of crime in the Tricity. Gaurav Patial, who is believed to to be in Romania, allegedly arranged hitmen for shooting down former student leader Gurlal Brar. He was also involved in the firing on famous Punjabi singer Parmish Verma.

Gangster Lawrence Bishnoi was brought to Chandigarh on production warrants twice in connection with murder and extortion cases. Other gangsters including Budha and Dilpreet Dhahan were also brought to the city on production warrants.

It wasn’t just gun-toting gangsters that cocked a snook at the UT Police, some black sheep in the force also gave it a bad name.

The arrest of former SHO of PS Mani Majra, Inspector Jaswinder Kaur, the transfer of in-charge of operations cell, Inspector Ranjeet Singh, and registration of a corruption and extortion case against certain personnel of the Crime Branch put the Chandigarh Police in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

One of the two policemen of the crime branch, a head constable, was placed under suspension. The role of other crime branch personnel is still under scanner.

Inspector Kaur was arrested for accepting a bribe of Rs one lakh through a middleman from a Mani Majra resident for not arresting him in a cheating case in July, almost a month after she was named in the FIR by CBI on June 30.

In charge of operations cell was sent to the police lines-26 following allegations of demanding bribe from a liquor contractor. Two crime branch personnel were booked for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 12,000 from each liquor vend, the total bribe amount summing up to Rs 96,000.

A liquor contractor told The Indian Express that they were the targets of both gangsters and corrupt police personnel because their favourite hunting grounds such as discotheques, night clubs, hotels, etc, had fallen on hard times due to the pandemic.

Since liquor continued to flow even during the lockdown, the criminals assumed that they would be able to make money from liquor businessmen.

While police chased gangsters, petty criminals made hay.

Almost 75 per cent cases of burglaries, snatchings, vehicle thefts remained untraced in 2020. The Motor vehicle thefts and miscellaneous thefts in the region remained top of the chart, with 418 and 160 cases, respectively.

This year, the police busted 49 gangs of vehicle thieves besides putting 89 burglars and 72 snatchers behind the bars. Interestingly, most of these burglars were active in the southern sectors of Chandigarh.

Vehicle-lifters had a good year with 309 of 408 cases remaining untraced. As many as 96 cases of miscellaneous thefts out of 160 remained untraced.

At least 108 cases of cheating were registered at all the 16 police stations. In the case of robberies, almost 50 per cent cases were solved.

The police personnel solved and arrested the involved persons in 16 cases out of 22. In all of the worked out cases, robbed valuables were recovered. One case of dacoity was reported and it was also cracked.

SSP (UT) Kuldeep Singh Chahal maintained, “We have adopted a no tolerance policy against gangsters and their sympathisers. Over a dozen people were arrested for providing logistic help to the criminals in the shape of providing them shelter, money, weapons etc.

The gangsters lodged behind bars have their friend circles in the Tricity. This circle was providing them information about all the happenings in Chandigarh. We identified these people. So many were arrested and some are still on the run.

Indeed, petty crime is high in Chandigarh and we are also very serious about it. Snatching is one of the most reported petty crimes. Though the anti-snatching law has been made stricter than earlier in Chandigarh as well, we are in the process to identify and arrest the absconding snatchers.”

Since January this year, FIRs against the accused involved in snatching were registered under the amended sections, including section 379A and 356B of the IPC.

These amended sections contain rigorous punishment of not less than 10 years, which may extend to up to 14 years, with a fine of Rs 25,000. Earlier, the punishment and fine for snatching convicts were not hefty.

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