Amid the rising instances of juveniles being involved in crimes such as robbery and murder in Tamil Nadu, what is alarming the state police is a new trend, wherein an increasing number of juveniles are committing sexual violence.
Recently, a seven-member gang abducted a 40-year-old woman and sexually assaulted her near Virudhunagar. Investigation revealed that the woman was first robbed, then abducted and raped. Police were shocked to find that of the accused, two were juveniles between the age of 15 and 17.
Similarly, on August 12, a 40-year-woman was kidnaped by a six-member gang when the woman was on her way to her house on the Chennai Express Highway. Of the six arrested, two were aged 18-19.
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In March, a student was gang-raped in Vellore and five were arrested, of which two were juveniles. In the same month, another sexual assault in Virudhunagar district had three juveniles among the seven arrested and tried.
Drug addiction the real reason
A senior police official in the south zone of Tamil Nadu confirmed that there is an increase in the number of sexual assaults and crimes by juveniles and this is a matter of concern.
“Most juveniles are not repeated offenders. They are mostly first timers. When the murder cases among the juveniles increased, we observed a pattern and it was largely because of various social and economic reasons. But the sexual assault cases are largely because of their addiction towards alcohol and drugs,” the officer said.
Apart from seizing ganja from drug peddlers, in May 2022, police seized the properties of the accused involved in peddling.
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According to police, it was the first of its kind in the state and the state police used the provisions under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act for seizing the properties and freezing the bank accounts of the accused.
“This is one of the ways we can stop the supply chain and stop the juveniles from getting exposed to such drugs and substances. Apart from that, we are creating awareness among parents about the need for education and how children are sometimes involved in illegal activities,” the officer added.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2020, Tamil Nadu had the fourth highest rate of juveniles getting involved in crimes. Of the total number of crimes committed in the state, 16.4% (3,394 cases) were committed by juveniles.
Repeat offenders, different crimes
Another senior police officer in the northern part of the state said that most of the juveniles who come out of the juvenile justice schools are again involved in crimes, but not the same crimes.
“For instance, a juvenile involved in murder does not get involved in a murder again because he is well aware that he would be tried as an adult from the next case and hence, he diverts his path to drug peddling and eventually gets addicted himself,” he said. Drug addiction is the most common reason for sexual violence, he added.
The official also referred to the incident on the Chennai Express Highway, where all the accused including the teenage boys were under the influence of marijuana.
“It’s not just that incident; even in the Vellore medical student incident, all the accused were under the influence of marijuana. But we could not book them under the provisions of NDPS Act, since they were consumers and not peddlers in the case,” the officer said.
M Karunanidhi, a retired SP, felt that the police should have a close contact with the juvenile community as well and find out their sources of drugs. “If the police have observed the pattern in such sexual crimes and if the reason is said to be drugs, then things should be a bit easier for them. Now they have to trace the root source from where the juvenile gets the drugs and control it, making it inaccessible for the youngsters,” he said.
He also felt that the police should identify such juveniles in their locality and re-admit them in nearby government schools if they are dropouts.