Offbeat

Greed Crimes: Magnitude of Problem in Nagaland & Measures to Prevent Vehicle Theft – Rupin Sharma IPS

Greed Crimes – Stolen Vehicles is an article in continuation of a series of articles on ‘Law’, written by Shri Rupin Sharma, IPS.

Kohima, February 19 (NEx): Greed Crimes – Stolen Vehicles (Law In Motion – 26) is in continuation of a series of articles on ‘Law’, written by Shri Rupin Sharma, IPS.

The topics covered are:

Q-16 The magnitude of Problem in Nagaland?

Q-17 How can I prevent theft of my vehicle?

Law in Motion – 26: Greed Crimes – Stolen Vehicles

I started off with an incident which prodded me to write on stolen vehicles and their links with people in Nagaland – whether as criminals or as
consumers or as victims. The past few days have witnessed a series of minor
achievements by Nagaland police where Nagaland Police has been able to recover stolen or lost vehicles and return them to either the rightful owners or the concerned police stations. I am sure those are proverbially just the tip of the
ice-berg. Let me go back in time to my experiences in the past too, just to
elucidate that the problem is not of recent origin but an old one.

Q-16 The magnitude of Problem in Nagaland?

Ans-16 – Let me go back in time: 2004-2006. I was the Sr. SP (CID) in
Nagaland. Among other things, I was also supervising the SCRB. Even back
then, we were under tremendous pressure from the NCRB to submit our reports on time – statistics essentially.
In one of the training programmes that I attended at NCRB, I got to look at the Stolen Vehicles Database in NCRB. Even then public could obtain No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from NCRB on any plans to buy used-cars. It was being used – albeit sparingly.

After some persuasion, the NCRB officials shared with me the ‘raw data’ – the database of stolen vehicles: that database was almost 23 lakh vehicles – some as old as 30 years old. The database contained info on variety of
parameters:

(a) Registration numbers

(b)Engine numbers

(c) Chassis number

(d)Name of Manufacturer

(e) Model Name/ Number

(f) Year of manufacture

(g) Ownership details

(h) Date of FIR and FIR Details

(i) Police Station and date etc.

I returned to Nagaland and thought of playing around with the data. Those were early days for computerisation of vehicle related data in Nagaland. If I recollect correctly, only RTOs of Kohima, Dimapur, Peren, and Mokokchung had commenced digitisation. Since I was also investigating some other major frauds, I requested the then Transport Commissioner Shri, E T Sunep for the database of the vehicles registered and digitised in Nagaland. After some effort, we got the data.

Those days, Jasbir Singh IPS was an Under Training probationer and after the day’s training, he would inevitably join me for dinner and debriefing. Jabir had better computer skills than me. In a series of efforts, both of us set-about matching the stolen vehicles, database of NCRB with the Registration database from our 4 (four) RTOs.

We tried the following search comparison parameters: –

(i) Where R/No, Engine No and Chassis numbers of the NCRB database matches with the RTOs database of Nagaland – ALL 3 PARAMETERS were POSITIVE.

(ii) Where Engine number and Chassis numbers of the two databases throw up exact matches;

(iii) Where either Engine number or Chassis number of the vehicles in the two databases match. The details and results were starling. If I recollect correctly, the results were something like this: –

(a) Almost 1500 registered in NL (4 RTOs) figured in the stolen vehicles
database of NCRB on two parameters – Engine number and Chassis numbers;

(b)Almost 2000 vehicles each where either the Engine number or Chassis number matched with stolen vehicles.
Going by these results, even in 2004-2005, there could have been almost 2500-3000 vehicles, stolen from the other parts of the country and re-registered in Nagaland. This was by itself very big.

Additionally, we also know that there are a decent number of people who do not get the vehicles registered (U/R) or (A/F) or keep using fake number plates. Among these vehicles, the possibility of stolen vehicles or those involved in crimes is reasonably high. I am not even considering the fact that the other RTOs would also possibly have some stolen vehicles registered with them.

Therefore, we in Nagaland, even in 2004-2005 were looking at almost 4000 stolen vehicles in the hands of people in Nagaland. While some people may have purchased stolen or used vehicles out of innocence or ignorance, a substantial number would have done it out of complicity or being well aware or greed or all these factors together.

Sadly for us, people in mainland, rightly or wrongly consider Nagaland as an easy dumping ground. There could be many reasons but greed and unwillingness to exercise prudence or caution are major factors. While the state may get a bad name or reputation, the buyer could end
up being a loser, ultimately.

Therefore, may I request exercise caution – utmost caution and prudence while purchasing ‘used – cars’ for the sake of your own financial well-being and reputation. Better IT systems can help you but also catch you on the wrong foot, very quickly.

Q-17 How can I prevent theft of my vehicle?

Ans -17 Owners or those legally in possession of vehicle can take all or some of the measures listed below. Which specific measures one would use would depend on your choice, the circumstances, your purse and also the cost of the vehicle.

(i) Keep your vehicle locked at all times, even while driving;

(ii) When parked, never leave your keys in the car;

(iii) Close all the windows and the sunroof;

(iv) Check the locks – Once you step outside the car and lock it, make sure to check and re-check the locks of all the doors including the car trunk;

(v) Never leave your car running and unattended;

(vi) Avoid leaving valuables inside your vehicle where passers-by can see them;

(vii) Do not leave your original vehicle documents/RC/Insurance in the car;

Often once a vehicle is stolen and gets intercepted by the police, the thieves get away because he is able to produce the auto registration. Know where you’re going. Now-a-days it is advisable and legally admissible to keep e-documents for your RC/Insurance etc., or even keep a photograph of your car, the RC, Chassis Number Etching, Engine Number Etching and even the Insurance policy in your mobile phones.

(viii) Avoid known high crime areas even if the alternate route takes longer;

(ix) Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they know the cars can be recovered quickly;

(x) Thieves prefer to work in the dark. Park it in a well-lit area if possible;

(xi) Have your car’s vehicle identification number (RC and even Chassis Numbers) etched on each of the windows or front and rear windshields. Car thieves would not want to go spend money on replacing all the glass before disposal of the stolen vehicle;

(xii) Use devices like that lock onto the steering wheel (called crook locks) can protect your vehicle;

(xiii) Ignition cut-off systems that prevent a car from being started;

(xiv) Systems which emit signals that can be tracked by the police;

Most vehicle thefts are committed by professional thieves. These organised
criminals usually prefer high-performance cars, or the less exotic, more popular models whose parts are interchangeable. Thieves usually take the stolen cars to “chop shops,” which dismantle them and sell the parts. In some cases, the gangs may often indulge in “stealing to order” to fulfill requests for certain types of vehicles.
Even if you get your car back, it may not be in the same condition in which it was stolen. Having a comprehensive car insurance policy is always helpful, so that in case of an unfortunate event of car theft, you can make a claim and deal with the financial burden that you might befall upon.

If your car is stolen, the police will need specific information to identify the car, parts and accessories. Take the time to record detailed information. By doing so, even if a car thief replaces the original license plates or alters the vehicle identification number or repaints the car, other points of identification will be available to you and police.

By Rupin Sharma IPS