Exclusive police stations for new-age crime

A locked-up cybercrime police station on Ayudha Pooja. Severe staff shortage has hampered investigations.

An alarming spurt in the number of cases, especially those related to Cybercrime, Economic offences and Narcotic Drugs (CEN), both in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka in the last two years has left the state police worried.

Dealing with the new-age crime, the police department has sought the state government to open eight exclusive CEN police stations. 

Crime incidents like multi-crore economic offences including group housing scam, chit fund scam and cybercrime have touched an all-time high in Bengaluru and other parts of the state as well. In fact, DGP Asith Mohan Prasad, chief of Karnataka’s Internal Security division, and former DG&IG Om Prakash were also cheated in an online fraud.  

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data 2016, Bengaluru occupied the second highest spot in cybercrime with 720 cases after Mumbai with 980. But in less than two years, the situation has been reversed with Bengaluru topping the chart with a whopping 3,567 cases in 2017 alone. This year, with two more months to go, the number stands at 3,905. Top officials in the department told DH that the cases might cross the 4,500-mark by December. 

Reeling under severe shortage of staff and unable to crack the cases, police have filed only nine chargesheets in 2017 and five more in 2018. The only reprieve for the sleuths is the lone conviction of cybercrime that was interrogated by the CID.

Sources in the state police revealed that there are only 20 personnel currently working in the cybercrime police station in Bengaluru where on an average, 13 cybercrime cases are filed every day. S Girish DCP (Crime) said the Central Crime Branch (CCB) police, along with Cybercrime police, have made several arrests since last month. “But with only 20 staffers in the Cybercrime police station and around 50 police personnel in CCB, it is hard to investigate piling cases, including narcotics and investment frauds. But we are doing our best,” he said.

Alongside cybercrime cases, what has left the cops even more worried is the rise in NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) cases.

In August-September 2018 alone, they cracked 289 NDPS cases out of which 104 were reported from Bengaluru, followed by 55 in Udupi where there is a large student population. It was this trend that prompted the police to ask for dedicated stations in Bengaluru.

MA Saleem, ADGP (crime and technical services), said crimes related to online fraud, economic offences and narcotic drugs are on a steady rise. “These are the tech-age and future-age crimes that require special expertise to handle them. Hence, we have decided to have eight exclusive CEN stations in all the eight divisions of Bengaluru city,” Saleem said.

The present cybercrime station at the Commissioner’s office would also be upgraded and an ACP-rank officer would be made the head of the station, while CEN stations would come up at the divisional level falling under the direct jurisdiction of DCPs.

All the staffers would be specially trained to handle such issues, he said. At the district level, the stations that dealt with lottery cases previously have been converted into CEN stations after the ban on lottery.

There are 35 such CEN stations across the state and a budget of Rs 19.4 crore has been allocated under the Smart Police project.

Economic offences above Rs 5 crore shall be handled by CEN stations while those lesser than Rs 5 crore will be transferred to CID cybercrime cell, an officer said.

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