A dedicated cyber cell for the railway police can help maximise recovery

What do you do about the cookie stolen from the cookie jar? The cookie here, being a digital device, and the jar, a train.

Most of us would have at some point lost something on a train journey, probably a cellphone, a laptop, a tablet or an iPod. Many might not have been lucky to make the rare recovery of the lost item primarily because the railway police don’t have a dedicated cyber cell unit.

On an average, five complaints are made every week about loss of electronic items on trains. These complaints are received by the Government Railway Police (GRP) at Chennai Central. The recovery, however, is minimal.

A dedicated cyber cell for the railway police can be a boon, especially to help passengers who have lose prized possession.

However, even with an escalating number of passengers and mounting complaints of electronics going missing on trains across the country, the railway police are apparently still banking on the skills of the cyber cell unit of the concerned local police.

In the case of Chennai city, the cyber crime wing at the police commissionerate in Vepery has been receiving requests to track International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) of mobile phones and other electronic goods reported lost on trains.

GRP sources, however, claim a unit exclusively for tracking mobile phones exists and it has been assisting investigators in crime cases, particularly in the recent case of robbery and murder of a commuter in the Tambaram railway station.

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The wait for the police to track down your lost phone can sometimes be more torturous than the trauma undergone after losing it.

But do not lose patience and buy phones from the second-hand market without seeing an authentic bill or from some stranger. Such devices may either be stolen or may have been used for some anti-social activity.

Once a ‘phone missing’ complaint is lodged with the police, to recover it, they either resort to technology and track the phone or rely on their investigative prowess by analysing the modus operandi of the crime. Either way, in those instances when the police manage to find the phone, it could take months.

“Most often our search ends in a nearby grey market or at the door steps of some person in a nearby district who is happy with having purchased a high-end phone at a cheap price,” a police officer says.

Another police officer cautions that shopkeepers should take a copy of the identity proof of the seller. “Those who purchase it should ask for a bill. Never purchase mobile phones from people not known to you.”

He says the practice should be strictly enforced, even for SIM cards.

(Reporting by Petlee Peter and Vivek Narayanan)

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