The ringleader of a gang of snatchers and three accomplices were arrested on Thursday night after they had snatched at least nine gold chains mostly from elderly morning walkers over the past three months.
Police said they operated in sets of two on motorbikes and struck in daylight so that they could identify a gold chain from an imitation one around their target’s neck.
“They attacked only in daytime, preying mostly on the elderly. The pillion rider would get off the bike and walk a few metres alongside or behind the victim. He would strike at the opportune moment, snatching the chain from behind. The biker would keep the getaway vehicle close to his accomplice and speed off the moment he jumps onto the seat. All these happen in split seconds,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, the joint commissioner of police (crime).
“A victim could recall the registration number of one of the bikes, though a digit was incorrect. We checked all the numbers in that series and finally zeroed in on one bike,” he said.
The police apparently went through the details of the 200-odd registration numbers, sources said.
The number led the police to Rajib Das, the 42-year-old kingpin of the gang. He was picked up from Thakurpukur and his bike seized.
He gave away the names of his accomplices during interrogation and the police arrested Sheikh Wasim and Sheikh Aslam in Thakurpukur and Swapan Das in Khardah. “The fifth member of the gang is absconding,” an officer said.
The nine cases were reported from New Alipore, Netajinagar, Bansdroni, Survey Park, Haridevpur, Cossipore and Sinthi between May and July.
An officer said 20-22 cases of snatching were reported in Calcutta every month but the number of arrests has been unsatisfactory because of guerrilla-style snatch-and-run tactics of the gangs. “Snatching cases are detected through source information. CCTV footage plays a crucial role at times. It sometime takes weeks of hard work to gather and follow up on the source information,” said a police detective.
He said the most effective way to prevent snatching is greater police presence.
The arrests came on a day two snatching incidents were reported from north Calcutta. Romi Bardhhan, 45, a resident of Sovabazar Street, was walking along CR Avenue around 5.30am when a youth on a motorcycle snatched her gold chain and sped off towards Chitpur. A few hours later, two bikers snatched the handbag of Piyali Dutta, 26, after she came out of a bank on BT Road.