Coronavirus pandemic alters policing, patterns of crime in Chandigarh

At least two incidents of attack on police personnel were reported in Chandigarh, at containment zone Kacchi Colony in Dhanas and Mani Majra, when the curfew was in force.

THE Covid-19 pandemic has altered the basic policing and patterns of crime. While drunken driving challans have been put on hold, police have been instructed to avoid arresting people involved in crimes subjected to punishment of less than seven years, especially those residing in containment zones. Meanwhile, a directive has been issued to the police personnel to maintain maximum social distancing while performing their duty of maintaining the law and order.

According to the Chandigarh police, the ratio of crime involving incidents of murder, attempt to murder, burglaries, snatching, fatal road accidents have come down by 70 per cent, but complaints of domestic violence, suicide, cyber crime have recorded a rise between March 24 and May 20. The curfew owed to COVID-19 was imposed in Chandigarh on March 23 night and withdrawn on May 5.

Requesting anonymity, an SHO said, “There were days when we were directed to chase and nab hardcore criminals, but these days we are given the task to nab people venturing out of their house without wearing masks, make people download the Arogya Setu app and to provide essential items to the those in need. We were told not to arrest persons residing at containment zones, until these zones are not declared disinfected.” Over 210 people have been arrested for not wearing masks and thousands of people have been made to download the Aragoya Setu app since the lockdown began.

At least two incidents of attack on police personnel were reported in Chandigarh, at containment zone Kacchi Colony in Dhanas and Mani Majra, when the curfew was in force. In both the incidents, FIRs were registered and assailants are identified by the police. However, they are yet to be arrested.

DGP (Chandigarh) Sanjay Baniwal said, “Changes in policing is the need of the hour. We are a part of the society and as society changes, methods of policing evolves. We have instructed police personnel to not arrest culprits involved in crimes which have punishment of less than seven years, especially from the containment zones. We stopped drunken driving challans after the outbreak, however, I am confident this particular challan drive will resume. We are in the process to make improvised gadgets for challaning people without coming in close contact. There’s a 50 per cent reduction in the reported heinous crime since the outbreak. Meanwhile, cases of suicide, domestic violence and stress-related problems are on the rise. Police personnel have been told to maintain maximum social distancing. I myself reduced paper work in office to avoid contact with people.”

During the lockdown period, merely 52 FIRs related to cases of murder (2), attempt to murder (3) dacoity (0), robbery (1), road accident (5), dowry death (1), rape (2), snatching (6), and burglaries (8) were registered. In sharp contrast, at least 594 people from Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula approached the cyber cell regarding fraudulent withdrawal of money from their bank accounts and cheating in the pretext of delivering alcohol, books and electronic gadgets, among others.

SSP Nilambri Vijay Jagdale said, “Covid-19 outbreak is of course a prime reason for the reduction in crime. UT police has been working hard to fight the outbreak and has come up in a redefined and new avatar. Besides this, we have been able to recover narcotic substances and illegal liquor with the arrest of almost 55 people in the last two months.”

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