Don't let your guard down on deserted stretches — muggings are on the rise

On the night of July 3, after a long, vain wait for public transport in Nayandahalli, 30-year-old Krishnegowda accepted a private taxi driver's offer of a lift to Banashankari. Little did he know that he would fall into a trap that is becoming increasingly routine on the Outer Ring Road.

Stopping midway on the isolated stretch, the driver and his assistant pulled out a knife and robbed him of gold jewellery valued at nearly Rs. 50,000 and cash before kicking him out and driving away.

The duo is still at large.

Incidents such as these have been reported from various parts of Bangalore, particularly on the outskirts, with unsettling regularity. That the roads have become a hunting ground for the robbers is evident from figures available: out of the 150 robberies reported in Bangalore in the past six months, muggings account for 55.

Notorious roads

Based on incidences reported in the last two years, several roads have achieved notoriety for attacks on hapless night-time travellers. These include Inner and Outer Ring Roads, NICE Road, Tumkur Road, the stretch between Nayandanahalli and Kengeri on Mysore Road, Whitefield Road, Varthur Main Road, Electronic City Main Road, Sarjapur Road, Old Madras Road between Byappanahalli and Commercial Tax Department's check post near Hoskote, service roads of Bellary Road, Ramamurthy Nagar Main Road, among others, all mainly in the outskirts of the city.

Poor patrolling

A majority of the crimes occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and the victims are usually stranded commuters like Mr. Krishnegowda who take a chance on private vans, cars and jeeps. Private operators take advantage of the void left by an inadequate public transport system at night-time as well as absence of night patrolling.

“Night patrolling here is minimal and inadequate,” said G.S. Krishnamurthy, Chairperson, HSR Layout Residents' Federation. For instance, he said, a large number of people travel between the Central Silk Board Junction and Marathahalli flyover at night. “There have been many instances of muggings and even cases where robbers have forced the victim to draw money from ATMs,” Mr. Krishnamurthy said.

Unsafe during day too?

The problem of safety on the outskirts is not merely confined to night-time. Take the case of N. Subramanya who was robbed of valuables and cash in the middle of the afternoon.

On May 16, unable to find a bus to the city, the 49-year-old boarded a private jeep on Kanakapura Road near Jain International School. His fellow passengers alighted at Harohalli and the driver and the cleaner promised to drop him near Banashankari. Around 2.30 p.m., however, the jeep turned off the highway into a mud road.

“They stopped in the middle of nowhere and the driver started to beat me with the jack,” said Mr. Subramanya. They forced him to hand over his gold chains, and emptied his wallet of Rs. 20,000. Though a complaint was lodged, the culprits remain unidentified.

What's the solution?

“We have taken a serious note of robberies and have directed all police stations to intensify night patrolling,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South East Division) P.S. Harsha told The Hindu.

A police official said that often people with criminal records work as drivers, and they are usually involved in such crimes.

Private taxis have gained such notoriety that the police have now started dissuading people from getting into them. Subbana, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Madivala Sub-division), hoped that with the new beat system, where each policeman of a police station is put in charge of a few streets in the area, such crimes would come down.