Watch your wallet and safeguard your cellphone when on the Metro. This cop warning has been sounded about an almost all-woman gang making merry in the city’s ‘underground’.
“Pick Pocketers of Metro Rly” reads the lettering above the gallery showcasing 15 women — and one solitary man — at a south Calcutta police station.
Police warn Metro Railway commuters the gang has hit the underground law-and-order system hard, and all the members are out on bail.
“We have displayed these photographs to make people aware of the threat they pose,” explained S.P. Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of Bhowanipore police station. In the age-group of 20 to 40 years and hailing from the city’s suburbs, they have been preying upon Metro passengers at will, targeting their wallets and cellphones.
“We came to know about these women when the Metro commuters caught some of them in the act and handed them over to us,” said Asish Sengupta, officer-in-charge of Maidan police station. “These women also are also guilty of lifting cellphones and picking pockets on the streets.”
The tales of petty crime come pouring out from the cop files. Asura Bibi, a 33-year-old woman from Akra, in South 24-Parganas, was caught red-handed while lifting a wallet. “My husband left me for another woman… I leave home every day around 8 am to earn my keep. My neighbours know me as a working woman,” she told police.
| • Be alert when you get into or off a train, especially in rush hour
• Check who you are surrounded by
• If you feel someone is too close, and if the compartment is not too crowded, move away
• Keep cellphones in trouser pocket
• Don’t use hip pocket; keep wallet in trouser pocket
Rabia Bibi, 28, from Mahestala, said: “My husband is ill. I am doing all this to buy medicine for him.”
For Sabita, Rabia and Asura, the cellphone is target number one. “They have easy access to the city’s grey market. Their names also emerged when we interrogated those who purchase stolen mobile phones,” said Timir Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge of Jorasanko thana.
Sabitri Naskar explained the modus operandi: “We target a crowded compartment during office hours and take advantage of the loud noise in the tunnel when the train is between stations. Commuters busy shouting above the din forget about the cellphones (and wallets) in their pockets. We also strike when the doors are about to open and the passengers are in a rush to disembark.”
Police blame the menace on the loopholes of the law that allow them to obtain bail easily and the inability to raid a Metro compartment or keep an eye on all trains and platforms. “Checking everyone is not possible, but we will intensify vigil,” promised J. P. Singh, officer-in-charge of Metro Railway Police.