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Crack a case over a cuppa

Lucknow, Dec. 17: Like Miss Marple, Kanpur police will now solve crimes over cups of tea.

The idea, as Kanpur senior superintendent of police Anand Swaroop explains, is to invite the old masters of crime to tea and let them talk about the ways they carried out robberies and kidnappings.

And then to use the knowledge of the most ingenious “modus operandi” to trap today’s criminal.

“We can easily pay these old criminals, most of whom have served their time and quit crime, from the funds earmarked for intelligence-gathering,” a police source said.

Setting a thief to catch a thief is an old idea, and many ex-criminals do turn police informers. But what’s new about the scheme, named “History-sheeter Friend”, is its scale and the focus on knowledge-gathering about criminal methods, officers said.

Swarup said his method had yielded results in Etah when he was the district’s police chief. On December 7, 2004, the Etah police had invited 1,570 former criminals to tea at their district headquarters. Only 274 turned up but they included 250 who had once been “notorious”, Swaroop recalled.

Etah is the abduction capital of Uttar Pradesh, “but after we learnt about the gangs’ methods, we cracked many cases”, an officer said.

“I have asked police stations to hand me a list of old criminals in their areas,” Swarup said. “We’ll call them for a cup of tea next month.”

The Kanpur district police have 6,052 “old criminals” on their records but only a “chosen” few would be invited.

Swaroop said one feature of his plan was to try and understand the mind of the criminal to be able to second guess him.

“We often talk to history-sheeters with a human touch,” Swaroop said. “We ask them what circumstances compelled them to take up crime and, if given a chance, would they return to normal life?”

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