This is a weekly column that will focus on crime and policing in the city

Phone tapping has been in the news quite a bit over the past months. The buzz created by the Niira Radia tapes, and more recently, the Jaffer Sait tapes, has not yet died down. Phone tapping’s come out of a spy novel for us.

Phone tapping is more than hearing a beep or cross-talk while you are speaking. Often, you don’t even know you are being tapped.

Actually, tapping a phone is not as easy as one thinks. It requires clearances from the home secretary, and sometimes, the intelligence sleuths themselves get the sanction only within 15 days of initiating the process.

There are different types of tapping, including using a transmitter to track the conversation. Once the home secretary or the intelligence chief of the State gives the green signal to tap the telephone of a terror suspect or organised crime syndicate, the sleuths approach the respective operator.

After this, the calls received or dialled by the suspect, on his mobile phone or landline, are diverted to policemen and it is recorded.

“Another method is cloning the SIM card of the suspect. This way, we can easily follow the conversation of the suspect. There are many other methods adopted by the Central intelligence agencies,” said the officer.

However, ‘phone tapping’ is not just used to unearth terror suspects or investigate scams. Detective agencies are approached by clients to tap their spouse’s phones.

“Most often, a suspicious husband or wife asks us to get the call details of their partner. But we refuse them bluntly as it is illegal,” said a private detective. Today, with smartphones, it is even possible to record conversations on the phone itself, either through the device or by downloading an app.

After spy thrillers, now think action movies. The getaway vehicle of choice for thieves in the city is a motorcycle, or any two-wheeler, for the obvious reasons. It is easy to snatch a chain and flee on a bike before the victim has even noticed the theft. But did you know the vehicle is usually a stolen or abandoned bike? The police say so.

Numerous two-wheelers can be seen lying abandoned and unaccounted for at parking yards of railway stations and bus termini. Some of these vehicles are definitely used by criminals, the police say.

In order to curb this practice, Chennai Police has decided to inspect railway stations and bus termini regularly to take stock of abandoned vehicles.

A senior police officer said, a year ago, there used to be hundreds of abandoned two-wheelers at Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus.

But after the anti-terrorist campaign, which comprises regular inspection of private and public parking yards, the number of abandoned vehicles has come down.

They have been either handed over to the owners or have figured in the list of unaccounted vehicles submitted to the court for further action. The police officers use the engine numbers to identify the owners of the abandoned vehicles.

(Reporting by Vivek Narayanan and R. Srikanth)

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