Thirty-eight-year-old Kiranmayi was driving back home after dropping her child at a tuition centre in Neredmet. She did not notice two motorcycle-borne miscreants following her and within seconds, her gold chain was yanked away from her and they sped away.
“It was shocking. It was my ‘mangalsutra', and apart from financial loss, emotionally it was very tough to recover from such incidents,” recalls Kiranmayi. It's become a regular occurrence with rampant chain snatching incidents being reported at different localities in the city.
Offenders usually target women walking alone in colonies. Riding a bike, they arrive from nowhere and snatch gold chains and even before the victim recovers, they escape.
Police earlier considered these incidents as sporadic and failed to address the issue initially. With chain snatchers striking regularly and widespread criticism from all quarters, they sketched a few strategies and conducted awareness programmes. Installation of “chain snatchings zone” boards and interaction programmes with resident welfare associations are a few to name.
Despite these initiatives, things continued to remain same as chain snatchings incidents increased considerably. The Hyderabad commissionerate areas recorded 578 cases in 2009 and property worth over Rs. 42 lakh was lost. In 2010, the cases increased to 714 and 826 cases were reported last year. In 2012, already 89 cases have been reported.
And like a coin having two sides, here too there are two dimensions. In addition to crime perspective, involvement of youngsters and students aged between 20 and 30 in these crimes is another. Blame it on lifestyle or attitude, of late many youngsters are indulging in chain snatchings crimes and police records stand a testimony to this.
But what makes youngsters involve in such activities? It is nothing but craze to make fast money. Ten grams of gold now costs about Rs. 30,000. Snatchers sell the stolen ornaments to gold merchants or pawn brokers and make few thousands in a jiffy. This is what drives many into these crimes, DCP (North) Ch. Srikanth.
It's the change in lifestyle and the need for money that influence youngsters. The advent of pub culture, zeal to own latest gadgets, passion to drive super bikes and in few cases, offenders even wanted to host grand parties to their girl friends. These are few reasons to explain, and more importantly, drug consumption and addiction is another, he says.
Unfortunately, it is not confined to a particular section of society. Youngsters from high income, middle and low income groups are involved in these crimes. While, the need to consume liquor and drugs forces those from high income groups, those from middle income groups do it for buying gadgets and smart phones, he explains.
According to police, one of the major contributing factors for the rise in chain snatchings is the ease with which gold can be converted into money. Many gold finance companies have come up and these companies offer money within minutes.
Offenders, who snatch chains, approach these companies and pawn brokers and mortgage them very easily. Though, the shop owners insist and mortgage only genuine ornaments, in most cases, offenders' mortgage stolen chains at throw-away prices, which can be beneficial for both shop owners and the offender, adds another officer.
Generally, shop owners' mortgage stolen chains for very low price and offenders are happy with whatever price is offered to them. It is money that is offered fast, which matters to offenders and they are not worried about the market value of chains, he explains.
The biggest challenge is tracing offenders and recovering the gold. While, established companies and outlets can be instructed to record details and capture images of people, who mortgage gold, the same cannot be enforced on pawn brokers.
“There are many unorganised pawn brokers and generally, these people do not keep records.
It is very difficult to recover from pawn brokers unless an accused confesses to having sold to them,” points out the officer. Amidst all these loopholes, it is the owners and youngsters who are at loss. Once a case is registered against a student, it can ruin his career and future, he concludes.