Monday, January 05, 2015

Friendly registration of crime

I just read in the papers about the press conference organised by Delhi Police wherein the police commissioner informed the media how police cases under friendly registration had doubled in 2014. The graph showed a jump in crime registration figures from 54,287 in 2012 to 73,902 in 2013 to 1.47 lakh in 2014. In a way, more than 100% increase in registration of crime.

Remember, how in the Delhi rape case of December 2012, the complaint was being shuttled from one police station to another, late in the evening, claiming jurisdiction issues. Had the police station in south Delhi responded to the complaint by the informant at that time, the gruesome crime of rape that happened subsequently could have been averted.

The exposure of these fault lines led to a national outcry. And wholesale instructions were given for zero tolerance for such callous responses. This meant willing registration of crimes of all kinds, and certainly of complaints by women. Campaigns by the media and all others, whoever could, exhorted women to report if they wanted criminals to be punished.
But this social need led to opening up of the hitherto indifferent police station to registration. Remember, changes in law also happened through the Justice Verma Committee where non-registration of crimes became a cognizable offence. Now, any duty officer reluctant to register crime ran the risk of getting caught and departmentally dealt with.
Earlier, it was almost the opposite. I recall the days when a particular police officer dared make the registration of cases free, and the crime figure soared. He was hauled up and considered foolish or inept as he did not know how to manage crime.
Earlier days were all about management of crime. When registration of robberies or heinous crimes was recorded, many of us were made to feel as if we had committed the crime. We went sleepless, both to prevent in real terms, or hide it to the maximum extent, or work it out even by falsely implicating innocents, to show it was worked out.

Today, the capital of India has changed. It’s accepting high figures of crime registration and looking at it with the right interpretation as the need for more prevention, better detection, more arrests and effective punishments.
What about other cities and states? Are they reflecting the actual crime figures? How does one know? Who assesses it? Do we have any surveys, statewide or districtwise? When universities and law schools can get involved?
If we really want to bring crime under check, we will have to truly assess the extent and patterns of crime going unreported and involve research and educational institutes in doing so. Then alone will we be able to truly assess our real shortages in policing and criminal justice systems.
How much can be financially provided for and how much of its deficit will have to come from community resources will get known. We may be able to identify many under-utilised segments, which can be co-opted and energised.


But it’s time to tell the truth about the real crime scene. After six decades of policing, the capital city has just begun to reveal. It’s still a beginning. A lot is still hidden in PCR calls and messages received otherwise by use of technology. Mapping them all along with actual FIR registration will give an idea of the crime scene. Maybe the home ministry could issue some guidelines on a more holistic, annual analysis, if not already done. Let us expect a more comprehensive analysis in future, but the wall of non-registration has been broken by Delhi Police.