Next time you’re strolling in the Victoria Memorial grounds, don’t forget to guard your wallet. Someone might be waiting for an opportune moment to snatch it.
And the targets are generally male tourists. The method is one that is taking the police and the victims by surprise. A band of women has come up with an almost-foolproof method of robbing visitors. If caught red-handed while stealing a purse, instead of fleeing, these women turn around and accuse the victim of molesting them. This leaves the police wondering who the real victim is. “It is a combination of snatching, robbery and false accusation,” a police officer said.
The group of women, accompanied by a couple of male accomplices, is robbing visitors by this method. “When caught red-handed, they don’t require a weapon. They just create a scene about their modesty being violated, and in a matter of moments, turn the tables on the victim,” said Nanda Dulal Paul, officer-in-charge (OC) of Hastings police station.
The Hastings police made the discovery last week after arresting three women from the Memorial grounds for accusing a Sri Lankan tourist of molestation after snatching his wallet. It was the second time they were netted in the recent past.
Elaborating on the modus operandi, OC Paul said the group keeps a close eye on those entering the Memorial. “They start scanning the visitors from the main gate, and select only those who they think come from outside the city or state,” Paul added. After selecting the target, they wait until the time is right. Initially, one woman plays the key role. She shadows the target and moves up close. She then steals the wallet from either the visitor’s bag or his pocket. If the victim does not realise it, then the criminals are home free.
“The stolen wallet is usually hidden in the woman’s blouse. If the victim catches the woman stealing his wallet, she starts screaming foul. The other miscreants, pretending to be concerned onlookers, emerge in support of the woman. Fearing humiliation, the victim either flees the spot or keeps quiet,” Paul explained.
Citing last week’s example, the OC said Radha Das, from Sankrail, had stolen the wallet from the bag of M. Nandan, the tourist from Sri Lanka, the same way. “Nandan caught her, but Radha had managed to hide the purse. He then grabbed Radha’s hands. She shouted, and two other women, Sabita Das and Sultana Bibi, and their male accomplice, Babu Rao, reached the spot and started accusing Nandan of molesting Radha,” Paul said. Fortunately, two constables patrolling the grounds identified the snatcher team.