Pepper spray, a self-defence mechanism suggested by the Chennai Police, is becoming popular among residents of several suburbs of Chennai.

At least 300 women and senior citizens residing in localities along East Coast Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai have placed orders with the police for the spray, priced at Rs.500 a canister.

Residents of farmhouses in the Panaiyur locality, which witnessed a gruesome double murder a few months ago, are thinking of keeping the spray at home. “The response is encouraging. Senior citizens living alone in beach bungalows are asking for the spray. Those staying in working women hostels, members of residents’ welfare associations and IT professionals are also showing keen interest. A girls’ hostel has placed order for procuring 50 spray cans,” Assistant Commissioner of Police (Thoraipakkam) K.N. Murali told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Temporary blindness

The spray, capable of immobilising a person for about three hours by causing temporary blindness or acute irritation in the eyes, was introduced by the police to help women protect themselves from crimes such as chain-snatching.

As a goodwill gesture, the Bangalore-based company that manufactures the spray has offered a buy-one-get-one-free scheme to the Chennai Police limited to a maximum of 100 cans.

“We intend to give the sprays to beat constables who go on foot or motorcycle patrolling to remote areas. It could be of use when they have to arrest more than one person indulging in an offence,” Mr. Murali said.

The Neelankarai, Semmancheri and Thoraipakkam police have application forms to be submitted by those seeking the pepper spray. “The cans will be supplied only when the applications are cleared by the police. This should be used only as a tool for self-defence. A local hospital has agreed to give free treatment to suspects against whom the spray is used,” Mr. Murali added.