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Marshal arts: Bengaluru students combat crime with skill and strategy

Initiated by the Bengaluru City Police in August 2023 in association with the Aarohan Foundation, an NGO, ‘Student Police Marshals’ has emerged as a formidable force.
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 00:00 IST
Last Updated : 21 April 2024, 00:00 IST

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Bengaluru: Two students from an engineering college in Yelahanka were rushed to the hospital after overdosing on drugs. Their classmates noticed their condition and quickly intervened. Following a month of treatment and several counselling sessions, the pair overcame their drug addiction and frequent suicidal thoughts.

The duo credits their recovery to three classmates who serve as ‘student police marshals,’ a group of volunteers trained by the city police to educate students across Bengaluru about drug abuse, cybercrimes, and other crimes.

Initiated by the Bengaluru City Police in August 2023 in association with the Aarohan Foundation, an NGO, ‘Student Police Marshals’ has emerged as a formidable force. To date, 4,784 students have been trained and named as Police Marshals in 26 colleges across the northeast, east, southeast, and Whitefield police divisions.

The concept involves identifying a few students as Police Marshals in each college across the city and educating them about issues that young people could be vulnerable to. These trained students then take on the role of educators to raise awareness among their college mates and also their families.

B Dayananda, Bengaluru City Police Commissioner, said that the initiative has helped in building police-student rapport and understanding the youths’ psyche better, aiding the police in addressing problems related to the student community.

“The prime objective is to create awareness. Western ideas absorbed through social media deem drugs as a lifestyle; this should be debunked, and awareness must be created about the harmful effects of drugs. An initiative of this kind was crucial for this,” said Dayananda. He emphasised that the initiative aims not to create fear but to establish a good rapport with students.

Stopping drug flow

A senior police officer from the Central Crime Branch (CCB) stressed that while it is nearly impossible to stop the flow of drugs into the city completely, controlling the movement of drugs within the city can be managed by busting smaller networks. “The student community is the primary target of peddlers. Starting with smaller connections, these peddlers weave a complex network and promote drugs. Growing closer to students will help us understand how these drug mafias operate and can save youths from falling into this trap,” the officer said.

Raman Gupta, Additional Commissioner, East Division, noted: “Educating youths and prompting them to spread messages among their peers is more effective as they can craft better ways of sending across the message.”

For the last six months, police marshals have been coming up with skits and mime performances to create awareness on topics that matter, and this initiative too is showing results, said Gupta.

Police at the station level have formed WhatsApp groups with police marshals, who are frequently updated about new trends in cybercrime. These marshals also educate larger groups on ways to guard against cybercrimes. They are visiting banks in their jurisdictions and educating customers, especially senior citizens who are more vulnerable to such crimes, about cybercrimes. Through several programs, marshals have also arranged a platform where their fellow students who have spent time in remand homes narrate their experiences and explain the consequences of taking the bad path.

POCSO awareness 

Police sources stated that the marshals are visiting schools and pre-university colleges to educate students about the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO).

Major hurdles 

Vinay, spokesperson for Aarohan Foundation, an NGO, emphasised the need for such campaigns as not many schools have such awareness programs, and speaking out about such issues are still taboo. Vinay explained that it took a great deal of time to convince a few private colleges, especially the reputed ones, to be part of the program.

There was a certain amount of fear involved over internal issues going public, he said, adding that a few colleges eventually agreed to be part of the initiative but many did not relent.

Changing students’ generally negative perceptions of the police and assuring them that contact with police will not lead to trouble has been challenging, according to Vinay.

Student marshals take part in a drug abuse awareness campaign.

Student marshals take part in a drug abuse awareness campaign.  

Youth in the crosshairs

Last year a whopping Rs 103.22 crore worth of drugs was seized in 3443 cases along with approximately 5387 kg of drugs. In terms of cybercrimes 17623 cases were reported in Bengaluru and 560 POCSO cases were registered. Youngsters are not only vulnerable to such crimes but also end up as perpetrators in some instances. Gaining a foothold among the student community was therefore very important for the police to address these issues.

The badge given to student police marshals. 
The badge given to student police marshals. 

How students get selected

The police department approaches colleges to explain the initiative. College authorities then select students for training. Police Marshals identify drug-related issues and alert the police. These consumers are treated as victims of drug abuse and are not arrested. They are counselled and if necessary put through de-addiction programs. The primary goal is to raise awareness and dismantle drug-peddling networks.

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Published 21 April 2024, 00:00 IST

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