Asniper team was part of the operation launched by the Chennai Police to rescue 13-year-old R. Keerthivasan who was kidnapped by two youths early this week.
Besides a number of plainclothesmen, about a dozen snipers were positioned strategically around the place where Ramesh, father of Keerthivasan, handed over the ransom to the kidnappers, who came on a motorcycle. Since the boy was not produced, the police acted cautiously and allowed them to escape.
“It was only after ensuring that the boy was safe, we went after the kidnappers. The exchange took place around 2.45 p.m. in Anna Nagar and police had cordoned off the entire area. We were ready for any eventuality as it was not clear whether the suspects were armed,” a senior police officer said on Thursday.
Technological support coupled with intelligence inputs helped in pinpointing the location of the duo. A piece of cloth tied to cover details on the number plate (of the motorcycle) fell exposing the registration number.
“This helped us to pin-point the location of the suspects though we had a rough idea about the area where their mobile phone was active,” he said.
Although the police personnel were in plainclothes, the accused sensed their presence and asked Ramesh to send them away. “They were constantly in touch with Keerthivasan's father. At one point of time, the calls stopped coming and the mobile phone (of the accused was switched off). They called later but maintained that the boy was sleeping. At this juncture, we feared the worst and asked Ramesh to pay the ransom.”
Vijay and Prabhu arrested in the case were produced in a city court on Wednesday and remanded to judicial custody.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Central) P. Thamaraikannan said police would take all steps to ensure that the movement of the accused persons to foreign countries is restricted.
Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran said kidnapping for ransom was no new crime and schoolchildren remained vulnerable to the menace. In a majority of the cases, the family of victims who braved threats and approached the police for relief were never let down.
“Once we take over the case, it is only a matter of time before the victim is rescued. In such operations, police have to work under tremendous pressure from various quarters, including the media. In the case of Keerthivasan, we deployed about 400 police personnel who worked all through the night to narrow down on the suspects,” he said.
Asked how kidnap-for-ransom cases can be averted, Mr. Rajendran said protecting children was a collective responsibility of every individual, more so, the parents and teachers.
“Basic security has to start from home. Parents should educate children on the risk factors and try to accompany them to school. One boy who was kidnapped for ransom and rescued by the police last month was lured by two suspects who offered a free ride in the car and some eatables,” he pointed out.
The Chennai Police had conducted meetings with heads of educational institutions on two occasions to sensitise them on safety aspects. “We are asking schools and colleges to install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) network with a couple of cameras facing the peripheral area. The antecedents of drivers of buses/vans transporting students must be thoroughly verified.”
Mr. Rajendran said parents should interact with children on the happenings in school and outside. Children need to know whom to contact and how to react in times of emergency.
“People should not wait for or allow things to happen and then come to the police…they should be the first line of defence. Any passer-by who sees suspicious persons interacting with children can intervene and verify…we will reach any area of disturbance within minutes,” the Police Commissioner added.