The crimes are not new; they are committed every day in the streets of Calcutta. Neither is the modus operandi of the criminals unusual. The difference lies only in the numbers and the timing.
At the city police headquarters at Lalbazar on Friday evening, when sleuths of the detective department were taking stock of the crimes, mainly petty, that had been committed in the city in the afternoon, they were surprised to find that the number had suddenly shot up.
Initially, they were stumped. What could possibly have led to this spurt in crime, especially in the afternoon' Then they realised that Friday afternoon was not like any other afternoon.
In fact, it wasn’t afternoon at all; it was night.
Normally, the figure for such crimes — snatchings, pickpocketing, lifting, petty thefts — for the afternoon hours averages around 10 from around the city. Till 6.30 on Friday evening, the figure hovered around 17.
Even this figure is expected to rise, since reports from all city police stations are yet to come in.
“The figure is abnormal,” confessed deputy commissioner, detective department (II), Pradip Sanyal. “The sudden darkness at noon may have encouraged criminals to take advantage of the situation. This kind of weather phenomenon has not occurred for a long time and people were gripped by a general sense of panic, which helped these criminals.”
The police said that as the skies darkened and the rains lashed the city, many people took shelter under awnings and balustrades. Some criminals used this opportunity to pick pockets or snatch jewellery. “It is not that this does not happen during a normal monsoon shower,” Sanyal said. “But the figure is much higher than normal.”
Citing an example, acting deputy commissioner, central division, P. Ravi, said: “This afternoon, in the Sonapatti area of Burrabazar, a car was unloading some silverware in front of a shop. A criminal hiding in the darkness that Friday’s afternoon provided him, quietly crept up, picked up a bag and fled. Fortunately for us, the bag was too heavy and he could not flee. He was soon caught.”
In the New Market police station, too, a crime took place on Friday that is unusual for an “ordinary” afternoon. A necklace was snatched from a woman shopper at New Market. Witnesses told the police that the snatcher made no effort to run away. Instead, he just melted into the darkness. “This is quite audacious,” said Ravi. “It is unheard of in a daylight crime.”