Community policing for safe neighbourhoods

Community policing for safe neighbourhoods

Community policing, neighbourhood watch schemes, police-public partnerships. For the resource-starved police department in the city, there couldn’t be a better way of promoting peace than involving the citizens in keeping their localities crime-free.

Bangalore has seen many such initiatives in the past. Will the “Area Suraksha Mitra” programme be different?

This initiative has an ambitious objective: To boost comprehensive intelligence gathering from the public, to channelise this information to the police so that the men in khaki could tackle crime smartly, to create safe neighbourhoods where citizens gets reliable help at all times in their houses, streets and communities. In short, to get the citizens actively engaged in the entire business of crime prevention.

Currently, the ASM programme is active in the seven police station limits of Banaswadi, JP Nagar, Rajagopalnagar, Ashoknagar, Yelahanka, Madiwala and Jnanabharathi. Formally launched by Home Minister K J George last year, the initiative essentially involves Area Suraksha Mitras, who work along with the local police to ensure safety and security in the neighbourhood. So far, 280 ASMs have been trained.
ASMs will work as extended arms of the police, minus the arms. As a project member explains, the ASM’s role is to provide information on crime incidents and accompany the police during beat-level awareness programmes. “In the last one year, we have conducted about a hundred such awareness meetings,” informs the member.

The Mitras also assist the fire department and home guards during fire, earthquakes, building collapses, serious accidents and other disasters. They are trained to help in cordoning off areas, providing information such as area topography, connecting the right people, and securing useful equipment such as ladders and ropes. Helping the police in intelligence gathering implies reporting on strangers in the area, criminals, new tenants, foreigners and suspicous objects and people.

The idea is to promote a sense of security among the people. “Many times, even if a crime has not happened, the perception of safety and security is poor. Through the ASMs working in tandem with the police, the programme intends to make a difference. When residents see someone responsible for their safety frequently enquiring about their feeling, there is a growth in confidence.”

With the ASM acting as a bridge between the police and the community, this change in perception is said to have made a drastic change in the JP Nagar crime scene. The number of chain-snatching cases, which hovered around 400 every year, is claimed to have reduced to 28 in a year. The police have now proposed to spread the ASM project to other police stations of the city.

The Spandana Centres opened in December 2013 at the Malleswaram and Basavanagudi stations are part of the initiative. These centres have separate community policing rooms, featuring services such as the women’s helpline (1091) and elders’ helpline (1090). Anyone in distress could walk in and lodge their complaints or report crimes.

Also on the community policing agenda are the Jana Suraksha Samiti (JSS) meetings. These meetings are held every month at the seven police stations, where the ASMs discuss security and safety issues with the Station House Officers (SHOs), and issues are sorted out.

Senior officers in the city police see the ASM and other similar initiatives as projects that should be sustainable over a longer period. Here’s what a top police official had to say, on conditions of anonymity: “It should not end up as a publicity stunt. It has to be seen how far it can cater to the problems of the middle and lower classes to get relief and justice. Such attempts in the past failed because the initial zeal and enthusiasm waned with time. Officers got busy with other cases, delegating the work to lower level staff. The punch was lost. The energy needs to be sustained.”

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