Several cities across India have reported a considerable decline in crime rates in the past three weeks, thanks to the ongoing nationwide lockdown that was imposed to curb the COVID-19 spread.
Delhi, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore reported a 60-90 per cent drop in crimes as compared to last year. However, cases of domestic violence, cybercrime and violation of lockdown rules are some of the exceptions.
In a relief from chasing robbers, chain snatchers and traffic violators, the police are now busy safeguarding areas that have reported positive coronavirus cases. Besides, they are also continuously tracking those breaking quarantine.
“Priorities of the police have now shifted from tracking regular crimes to raising awareness about the pandemic and tracking those who violate home quarantine norms,” said ACP Tabarak Fathima from Bengaluru. “Due to the lockdown, there are lesser people on the roads and thus we are seeing lesser incidents of crime.”
During the fortnight starting March 15, the whole of Bengaluru and Kolkata witnessed a 50 per cent drop in crimes. Between March 16 and 31, Lucknow reported 65 per cent lesser crimes compared to the same period last year.
In Tamil Nadu, major crimes and fatal accidents recorded since March 24 has been nearly zero while cases of domestic abuse were linked to unavailability of liquor. And in Kolkata, the fake news machinery kept the police on their toes.
While the overall crime rate witnessed a dip due to the lockdown, the new cases came in the form of violation of lockdown norms. Even though the Karnataka government had issued passes for essential services, about 6,852 vehicles were seized since March 25.
On directions from the Centre, police will book those violating prohibitory orders under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Owners of seized vehicles will have to approach the jurisdiction court to get their vehicles released.
Meanwhile, the number of distress calls to Vanitha Sahayavan, the women’s helpline number, rose from an average 10 to 25 in the past two weeks.
The pandemic also witnessed a rise in communal tension with people discriminating against Muslims following the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi.
Two persons from Ankanahalli in Ramanagaram district were booked for asking the villagers to prevent entry of Muslims following the outbreak of COVID-19. The village panchayat had even hired a man who went on a drum beating to alert the locals against allowing Muslims in the village.
Meanwhile, the police also took action against those who violated the prohibitory orders and had gathered people for religious purposes.
After the rise in cases in Bidar district following the Tablighi Jamaat incident, the police have been on high alert and did not allow any religious gatherings. In Hubbali, the locals had even attacked some police personnel who had forcefully shut a mosque during Friday prayers.
On April 7, eight Kyrgyzstan nationals under quarantine in Bidar district were booked for flouting visa rules. Bidar police said the foreigners were allegedly indulging in Islamic missionary activities in the district while they had entered the country on a tourist visa.
Though the major crimes recorded in Tamil Nadu was almost nil, a number of domestic violence and harassment cases were reported in the state in these last few weeks of lockdown. However, authorities are yet to release the official statewide crime data.
Coimbatore recorded zero incidents of crime and fatal accidents during this period. City police officials claim most murders in the city were outcomes of drunken brawls, besides organised crimes. Restrictions on vehicular movement resulted in a considerable decline in accident cases as well, said police.
However, psychologists and psychiatrists told The Federal there has been an increase in the number of calls seeking help against domestic violence.
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Between March 24 and April 9, as many as 24 cases of domestic violence were registered across the state. Eight people were arrested in connection with these cases, according to official data.
Police said the complainants in most of these cases were the wives, sisters or mothers of the accused, and in most cases, the accused were drunkards. They said such tipplers were developing withdrawal symptoms due to unavailability of liquor and “they seem to have taken the frustration put on their family members, particularly the women.”
While reports suggested suicides of tipplers due to unavailability of liquor, state police have refrained from attributing such cases to their alcohol dependence.
In state capital Kolkata, crime rate has witnessed a significant dip due to the restrictions imposed on outdoor activities following the COVID-19 outbreak. However, a sudden spurt in the spread of fake news has kept the police on their toes.
In the past fortnight, police have arrested around 35 people from various parts of the state for spreading misinformation and fake news related to the pandemic. They have been booked under Section 54 (Punishment for false warning) of the Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2005, and Section 505 (1) (b) of the IPC (Statements conducing to public mischief).
Besides, warnings have been issued to 250 others for sharing unverified content on social media. Police also booked over 2,000 people under Section 188 of the IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant), for violating lockdown norms.
In its bid to enforce the lockdown, Kolkata Police have arrested 1,900 people between the night of April 1 and April 3. Of them, 800 were arrested on Friday, and booked under Section 188 of the IPC.
Meanwhile, one person died and another sustained bullet injuries when two groups of villagers clashed in Birbhum district on April 4 over the setting up of a quarantine centre at a local school. There were reports of inter-party and intra-party clashes over ration and relief distributions as well.
In another incident, two Trinamool Congress ward councillors were booked for rioting on March 30 after a street fight between their supporters in Kolkata’s Garden Reach area.
“The number of criminal activities recorded between March 18 and 28 fell by 50 per cent if compared with the same period last year,” Kolkata Police’s Joint Commissioner (Crime) Murli Dhar Sharma told reporters recently.
The number of cases booked did not even cross the 300-mark while it was double during the same period last year, police added.
(With inputs from Samir K Purkayastha, Prabhu Mallikarjunan and Prabhakar Tamilarasu)