Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel arrested an eight-member gang from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that had been stealing valuable goods from sitting and luggage rake (SLR) trains across the country including Tamil Nadu.
The thieves, using a novel method, mainly stole goods such as garments, spices and other equipment kept in SLR trains which have a seating facility in the middle and space to store luggage and parcels at both ends of the coach.
The seating facility and parcel compartment are separated by the metal walls near the toilets at both ends.
Before boarding the train, the gang used to gather near the compartment and keep a watch to determine the spots where valuable parcels were being kept. “Once the train left the station, one short and one tall member of the gang entered a toilet and closed the door. The others used to stand outside in turns under the pretext of waiting to use it,” said a RPF officer.
The gang members inside the toilet then opened a 10-cm space near the water tank above the commode.
“No human can enter through this gap. Hence they used to place a log in between and then increase the gap to over one foot using a jack. Then the short gang member would crawl into the parcel area,” said the officer.
Once inside, the thief opened the parcels, took most of the goods inside and sealed the bag again. He then pushed the bag containing the loot through the gap and crawled back into the toilet. “They used to seal the opened area again and then return to their seats and act like any other commuter,” said the officer.
After alighting from the trains, they sold the loot by posing as hawkers. “They did not loot equipment meant for industries. They concentrated mainly upon goods that could be sold on the road. They used to repack the spices and sell them in nearby States,” said the officer.
The gang that mainly operated in central India had caused a loss of crores of rupees to the Railways. As security was tightened in the stations in the region after a series of thefts, the gang moved to Chennai.
They tried to use the same modus operandi to steal valuables from trains leaving Chennai Central. But as the RPF had already received information about the gang’s arrival in the city, they had formed special teams comprising inspectors Vijaykumar and Alagarsamy.
“They tried to steal welding machine parcels kept on the platform and were arrested in the process. During interrogation, they confessed that they used to steal from trains,” said the officer.