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That’s the stranger who’s our neighbour

Imran Gowhar
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The police have a big job to do as the city gets bigger and community bonds disappear

INCREASINGLY IMPERSONAL:With increasing cultural differences among the people who migrate from different parts of the country, interpersonal communication and bonding have taken a backseat. People livingin the same apartment or on the same street hardly knowtheir neighbours.— FILE PHOTO: M. Periasamy
INCREASINGLY IMPERSONAL:With increasing cultural differences among the people who migrate from different parts of the country, interpersonal communication and bonding have taken a backseat. People livingin the same apartment or on the same street hardly knowtheir neighbours.— FILE PHOTO: M. Periasamy

The recent spurt of crimes against women and senior citizens and the elderly is a telling pointer to lack of policing even as old Bangaloreans say disappearing community bonds are contributing to rising crime.

While residents say the police are invisible, the police say that with a force of about 15,000 personnel, it is impossible to offer security to each and every one of almost one crore Bangaloreans. Such a situation could better be handled through community policing, a concept spurned by the city, according to a senior police officer.

In the past six months, there were eight reported crimes against senior citizens — who were alone at the time of the attack — which took two lives.

Rapes, robberies

Recently, two gang rapes were reported. At least one woman loses her chain to snatchers every day in the city. Also, last month, a senior citizen who came home in the early hours to her empty flat in a Malleswaram apartment complex was followed by a young criminal who robbed her of her valuables at knifepoint. Significantly, most of her fellow residents are aged and they had not hired any security or had had CCTV.

Shiva Kumar, advocate and counsellor at the Elders’ Helpline, said that small apartment complexes, which are mushrooming across the city, don’t offer private security, leaving residents in such dwellings vulnerable.

Not enough numbers

A former State police chief said that the police strength is simply too small to be effective and there was a need to increase it to match the population. Besides numbers, the government should equip it with the latest technology. He recommended doing away with the beat system and replacing it with closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras across the city.

The public too should be reciprocate by involving itself in community policing as well as taking pre-emptive measures such as installing burglar alarms in homes.

Unresponsive public

It’s not as if the police have not tried. Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime-West) Pranab Kumar Mohanty said that the police had taken many initiatives, including Hello Neighbour, to involve community participation in policing. However, many people were wary of the programme and felt that it was invading their privacy.

Mr. Mohanty told The Hindu : “Better policing can only be achieved with public participation. People expect miracles from the police; at the same time they don’t support the police.”

He added that the people expected the police to be omnipresent and are quick to blame them for any law and order issue. But citizens also are guilty of non-cooperation.

With increasing cultural differences among the people who migrate from different parts of the country, interpersonal communication and bonding has taken a backseat. People living in the same apartment or on the same street hardly know their neighbours.

Stranger next door

A young working professional who recently moved to an apartment in Jayanagar was stopped by one of the watchmen as he thought she was a visitor.

The girl said that she leaves early and returns home late and therefore, was not acquainted with people in the apartment: only the night shift security personnel recognised her because of her schedule.

“In such cases, it would even be difficult to enter the apartment with the help of neighbours as even they may not recognise me,” said the young woman who did want her name in print.

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