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Look West for training in prevention

New Delhi, Dec. 25: Many Indians, including members of Parliament, have called for capital punishment to deter potential rapists in the wake of the brutal assault on a young woman in a Delhi bus, but police in some of the world’s biggest metropolises follow a method that looks at prevention.

Police manuals in cities like London, Toronto and New York have special operating procedures for sex crime units, where policemen are trained not only to spot offenders but also create an environment where they cannot operate.

This has resulted in more cases being reported and also a steep decline in such crimes.

In Delhi, where a girl gets raped every 18 hours, the police can learn from Britain’s Metropolitan Police’s sex crime unit, Sapphire, which uses covert tactics to target men who have never been charged or convicted of rape but intelligence suggests are perpetrators.

Former Delhi top cop Ved Marwah said in India, too, the police can replicate the western model of tracking offenders. “The police should begin an intensive anti-goonda drive, activate their surveillance mechanism on known local offenders and track their movements. This can be done within the scope of law,” said Marwah, who was Delhi police chief and then NSG director-general before going on to become governor of Manipur.

Subhash Chand Tomar’s wife Amrish Devi, who fainted thrice at the crematorium, is consoled by family members in New Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Prem Singh

“However, we need manpower for that,” he added. “We should double the number of policemen, give them the mobility and motivation and train them to be more sensitive towards such crimes. A policeman loses his will to work if he is reduced to opening doors for politicians. Policing should be de-linked from protocol.”

In Toronto, Canada, a special department in the sexual assault squad — the Behavioural Assessment Section — is trained to predict the potential for violence from an individual or group.

Canada also has a system of registering sex offenders, obligating them to report to the police. It helps the police locate and monitor potential offenders.

In New York and London, police forces write what are called “crime scripts” of common crimes — a step-by-step procedure of what a criminal might do during a crime — and then write a “script disruption”. In other words, interventions at stages of the criminal’s actions that could thwart him from carrying out his criminal act.

M.N. Singh, former joint commissioner, crime, Mumbai, said sexual harassment in public places indicates a “breakdown” in law and order. “It shows ineffective policing. In Europe or in America, they have special units that not only track possible sex offenders but also keep tabs on the known ones. It is time we also had sex crime units like in Britain or New York’s Special Victims Division, which has specialised training in dealing with sex crime cases.”

Singh said the police in each state should manage a registry of all migrant people and verify each before they are enlisted for jobs. He said the only way to prevent assaults like the gang rape of the trainee paramedic was to ensure visible police presence and gadgets to monitor areas where such crimes have taken place.

In Europe and the US, CCTV cameras are a nearly 40-year-old concept, unlike in India where such electronic vigil is still in its nascent stages.

India does have crime against women cells, but they offer counselling for domestic disputes.

Kiran Bedi, the country’s first woman IPS officer, said India has lost the concept of “community policing” in the last 20 years. “Beat constables don’t exist. Our governments have been concentrating on special units like anti terror squads, NIA — basically concentrating on reactionary forces, while neglecting common man policing.”

Bedi, who was director-general at the Bureau of Police Research and Development, said there has been no research on policing. “Most strategies to prevent crimes in America are drawn from research funded by corporates. On the basis of such research, policies are formulated.”