I had just spent a wonderful evening with friends on Residency Road, one mid-January evening this year. At the time, the world was between waves of the pandemic, but one could sense that people wanted to be out in the world again, meeting people, shopping, traveling. I was undoubtedly one of them. So here I was, returning home as I had always done before the pandemic hit, in an auto-rickshaw at 9 p.m.
I was scrolling through social media on the phone, unaware of just how much the world around me had changed. But to be on the safer side, I had sent details of my location to my husband.
I held the phone lightly in my hand, concentrating more on the bumpy auto ride with my arm on my backpack, which was next to me on the seat. When we reached a signal on Hosur Road near Koramangala, I noticed two thin men wearing masks on a bike next to my auto but didn’t think much of it.
How my phone was stolen
The signal changed from red to green and as my auto accelerated, the bike appeared to slow down behind us and within a matter of seconds appeared next to my auto, with the pillion rider lunging towards me inside, grabbing my hand, pulling me towards the open door. The phone was between our hands and we both struggled until finally, I let go of it, lest I get pulled out of the auto risking far more serious injuries.
I can’t accurately describe what I felt in those minutes after the assault and robbery, except shock, disgust, dismay, and sadness. I felt my voice come out extremely small as I motioned to the auto driver to tell him what had occurred. I realized there was no way to give chase and wondered if there was a way to get my phone back. I remembered the police station was a few hundred meters ahead and I urged the auto driver to take me there.
From the station, I phoned my husband to let him know what had happened and at that moment I realized I had sent him my live location, and when he checked where the phone was, it showed that it was just around the corner. Two off-duty police officers were kind enough to come with me in the same auto and we set off. But soon, the phone was switched off and that was that.
During the time at the police station on the night of the incident and the next day, the cops told me that phones which are stolen are dismantled and sold outside the state. I wanted to file an FIR because if my phone was ever misused it would at least be on record that it was stolen, but I was told to wait and that the phone would be recovered. On the advice of the police officers present, I did not file an FIR but the theft was recorded as a complaint. It was only recently that I filed an E-lost report many months after the robbery and I console myself by saying better late than never.
Read more: How to file an FIR?
Mobile theft on the rise in Bengaluru
Muggings and assaults have become all too common on the streets of Bengaluru, even in localities like Indiranagar with scary incidents occurring in broad daylight. There has been an uptick in the number of crimes in the city according to numbeo.com, a crowd-sourced global database. The site also noted an increase in the crime rate over the past three years. The ratings on the site are based on the perceptions of the visitors to the city and so it is very telling. According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), there were 1535 thefts (items other than motor vehicles).
Bengaluru has been rated as the best city to live in the country under the ease of living index in 2020, with one of the criteria being quality of life, under which safety is a major parameter. However, one wonders about the stark difference in perception between the citizens residing and working in Bengaluru and the award committee.
Recent crimes as reported in the media
In one incident, reported in The Hindu, a software engineer was attacked by two armed men while he was walking to his workplace. Despite giving them his wallet, phone and laptop, the men wanted more and threatened to push him under an oncoming train. He escaped with his life when his brother called on his phone, who after sensing trouble, rushed to the scene with his friends.
Earlier this year, the Chamrajpet police arrested two men with around 67 stolen cellphones due to a complaint by a pedestrian whose phone was stolen. With the help of CCTV footage, the police were able to track down and arrest the suspects, as reported by The Times of India.
According to another news report, the stolen mobile phone market is thriving in Bengaluru with early morning walkers and people returning from work proving easy targets. The West Zone Deputy Commissioner of Police even quipped that stealing mobile phones has become “the new chain snatching”. In yet another reported incident, the police caught youths, which included juveniles armed with machetes, threatening people for their belongings in Vishweshariah Layout.
Action you can take
If these articles are anything to go by, muggings and assaults have become part of life for the Bengaluruean. What a resident needs to know in case of a phone robbery is to have the SIM blocked immediately, to track the phone if one has the facility on android and IOS, and lodge a complaint at the nearest police station. Alternatively, one can go to the Bengaluru city police website and file an e-lost report. The phone numbers can be found in the Bengaluru City Police website.
The state’s responsibility in ensuring safety
What annoyed me the most was that I was told the CCTV camera, located at the signal at the exact place where my phone was stolen, was not working. This was extremely frustrating to hear, only making me more helpless. Post that, I have refrained from staying out in the evening when I am on my own because I started noticing another glaring defect. Most streets and even main roads don’t have streetlights or even if they are present, they are not switched on. And considering that crimes in Bengaluru are only increasing, I never saw active patrolling in most parts where I traveled, except in major commercial areas.
Read more: If only cameras could ensure women’s safety…
When citizens take adequate precautions to be safe, I am left with the troubling question of whether the authorities have taken all the steps necessary to make us feel the same. After all, it takes two to tango.