Crimes on trains or at railway stations are common and the authorities have taken several steps to curb offences in their jurisdiction. While in some offences they have been successful, others continue to stick out like a sore thumb.
Total number of criminal offences registered with the central and western railway police in 2014 till April was 899 as compared to 920 during the same period last year.
For instance, this year, a total of seven murders were registered with the government railway police (GRP) till April 30 as compared to one case during the corresponding period last year. However, crimes against women, such as molestation, have come down. While in 2013 till April, 15 such offences were registered, for the same period in 2014, 12 cases were reported.
It should also be noted that compared to western line, more crimes have been committed in the central line. Till April 2014, while the western railway reported two incidents of molestation, the central reported 10. Similarly, two murders were reported on the western railway (WR) as compared to three incidents in the central railway (CR).
The WR starts from Churchgate and goes up to Dahanu. The CR, on the other hand, starts from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and goes up to Panvel, Kasara and Karjat.
However, some property offences as mobile thefts have seen a drastic rise. From 318 cases registered in 2013 till April, such incidents went up to 430 during the same period this year. Railway officers say that property offences – such as mobile thefts, pick pocketing and bag lifting – are difficult to curb. While crime against women on trains can be contained by increasing security and taking necessary precautions, people have to remain alert with regard to their valuables while travelling on trains.
"Since local trains are the lifeline of Mumbai and mode of transport for lakhs of Mumbaikars, most of the trains are jam-packed, especially during peak hours. Thieves, who operate on trains, are trained and they mostly strike during this time as their victims do not even realise that something is being stolen until they get a chance to check their stuff. And this they do only when they get off the train. By then, the thief is already targeting some other victim on some other train," a senior railway officer said.
Another officer said that most property offences are committed by a group of men. Their modus operandi is simple. They board trains which are overcrowded and then zero in on the victim. Once this is done, they make their way and surround the victim. "While some keep close body contact with the victim to distract him, others start with their job," the officer added.
Explaining why more crimes are reported on the central line as compared to the western line, a railway crime branch officer said, "Since the central railway consists of two line – central and harbour – the number of commuters using these services is much more as compared to that of the western railway. And where there are more commuters, the commission of crime is always going to be more."
The other issue with the central line is the boundary wall between the tracks and the slum areas located on the sides of the tracks. While WR has managed to build boundary walls, CR is still to take action in this regard. Owing to this, criminals have easy access to the railway jurisdiction.
Deputy commissioner of police Rupali Ambure (CR) said, "We are taking necessary measures to curb overall crime on trains. Our main focus is on crime against women but that does not mean we are paying less attention to other offences."