Community to the defence of women

Working women travelling at night take care to follow precautions like informing an acquaintance, in Bengaluru on September 07, 2016. K. Murali Kumar.

Working women travelling at night take care to follow precautions like informing an acquaintance, in Bengaluru on September 07, 2016. K. Murali Kumar.

The multi-stakeholder consultations on women’s safety in Bengaluru organised recently by The Indian Police Foundation brought into sharp focus the challenge of women’s safety in public and private spaces. It came up with several possible solutions, one of them being community policing (CP).

CP is a global best practice focusing on community engagement to address issues of crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services that include aspects of traditional law enforcement as well as prevention and problem solving. CP requires the police and citizens to come together as partners and work in creative ways to fight crime. It is an approach wherein community support and interaction help control and prevent crime. All citizens would have a say in identifying and solving their problems. With a low police-population ratio across the country, CP is also a practical necessity. In short, CP is the collaboration of active citizenship with the police leading to better safety and security. The beat constable remains the fulcrum of CP as he leads and guides the citizens of the beat area with a problem-solving mindset. It is a small-scale approach.

Bengaluru City Police (BCP) entered into collaboration in 2013 with Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a city-based NGO. Seven police stations were chosen to implement CP as a pilot project. The number of police stations has since expanded to 15. The BCP – Janaagraha CP model consisted in carefully choosing respectable citizens from diverse backgrounds, and with no political affiliations as citizen representatives, called Area Suraksha Mitras (ASM). The ASMs were selected and appointed by the Police Inspector after due verification. These citizen-volunteers or ASMs are friends of the police assisting in neighbourhood safety. The deployment of ASMs would be on a dynamic and rotational basis, thus denying them the opportunity to misuse their position. Proper training and constant monitoring ensured that ASMs conduct themselves well.

This committee of ASMs called the Jana Suraksha Samiti would meet at least once in a month at the police station under the chairmanship of the local police inspector and discuss policing priorities. They would draw up strategies to work with the police in prevention and detection of crime and bringing citizens closer to the police. These 500-odd ASMs working closely with the beat constables have conducted nearly 5,000 awareness programmes at the beat level, covering various policing challenges ranging from terrorism to safety of women and chain-snatching to child abuse. These and other awareness drives, including street plays and door-to-door campaigns, have successfully sensitized nearly 4 lakh citizens in the areas covering these police stations. More than 1,000 members form part of WhatsApp groups spearheaded by the beat constables in 58 beats, constantly sharing citizens’ problems. Many are the success stories of beat constables working in tandem with ASMs.

This democratic, citizen-friendly and participatory policing method is picking up pace in the country and is being implemented under different banners — Maithri in Andhra Pradesh, VishvasYojana in Himachal Pradesh, Friends of Police in Tamil Nadu, Sahayata West Bengal, Prahari in Assam, and Janmaithri in Kerala. The States of Assam, Kerala and Chhattisgarh have incorporated CP in their respective Police Acts.

The BCP–Janaagraha initiative was launched after an elaborate baseline survey of ‘security threat perception index’ covering 300 households carrying 103 questions. The survey threw up positive feedback. About 75% of the citizens felt that CP is an effective way to improve safety and security, 84% felt it would increase awareness among citizens while 60% felt that CP would help the police and 76% felt that citizens show confidence in a citizen-volunteer.

(This is first of a two-part series. S.T. Ramesh is former Director-General and Inspector-General of Police, Karnataka, and one of the advisers to Janaagraha’s project on community policing. Pronab Mohanty is an IPS officer of Karnataka who is presently working as Deputy Director-General, UIDAI, Bengaluru.)

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 6:12:29 pm |