Traders in Fort area, the busiest shopping locality in the city, will join hands with the police to protect buyers from pickpockets, drunks, and chain snatchers this Onam.
The police said not less than three lakh people visit the scores of textile shops, jewellery showrooms, convenience stores and super markets in the locality every day.
They expect the numbers to double, chiefly during after office hours, soon. The crowds are expected to increase exponentially during the last 10 days of the run up to Onam, which falls on September 12.
The police have asked all traders to set up surveillance cameras in their establishments and to provide the law enforcement access to the recordings, if and when required. The police say that traders have also agreed to place night-vision-enabled video cameras to cover the road and parking lots in the vicinity of their shops.
The police say that the partnership with the traders will be good for the business community in Fort area. Media reports of purse-lifters, chain-snatchers and drunks have often driven away at least a small section of shoppers from the locality to new commercial areas coming up in other parts of the district. They say the new measures will make buyers, mainly women and children, feel safe.
On their part, the police will familiarise traders with the photographs and methods of operation of known shoplifters and petty criminals. They will instruct staff and security men in rudimentary crime prevention methods.
The police have also asked traders not to transport currency and valuables to and from their showrooms at predictable timings.
Over 100 plainclothes officers, including women, will be deployed in Fort area this Onam. The undercover squads will also focus on persons who sexually harass women in public places. They will patrol crowded market places, travel in public transport buses and be on the stake out at bus stops.
The police will not allow vendors to appropriate pavements or waysides. They have requested traders not to rent out their storefronts to hawkers.
Local residents say that small-time goons in the locality often appropriated public space, by marking the spot with chalk or a piece of cloth, and “leased” it out to hawkers from outside the State for a daily rent.
The gangsters run lucrative protection money rackets preyed on street hawkers and collected huge sums of money from traders and residents in the name of Onam celebrations. The police have rarely prosecuted such gangs in the past. The police say no sales will be allowed on the streets surrounding the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, where a large treasure trove was uncovered. They have asked hotel and lodge owners to accurately record and report details of guests. The police have proposed that the entire Putharikandam Maidan be earmarked as a paid parking area to be administered by the City Corporation to reduce traffic congestion in the locality.
Commissioner of Police P. Vijayan; Assistant Commissioner, Fort, K.S. Suresh Kumar; and Circle Inspector, Fort, S.Y. Suresh are supervising the security scheme.