Sunday, February 04, 2007

An eye-opener for police

Much more needs to be done to sensitise cops entrusted with the task of locating missing persons, says DEVESH K. PANDEY

The Noida killings have acted as an eye-opener for the Delhi police. Although they have initiated a series of measures to ensure that such gory incidents do not take place in the Capital, it seems much more needs to be done to sensitise police personnel who are entrusted with the task of locating missing persons. To begin with, the Delhi police have shown great alacrity in taking steps to send across a strong message to the public that their children are well protected here. Following a hue and cry over the Nithari killings in Noida, the top brass not only sought the updated data on missing persons but also directed the Deputy Commissioners of Police to keep track of pending cases of missing children and strictly adhere to relevant standing orders.
The most significant step has been the formulation of District Missing Persons Units (DMPU). The objective of this unit -- which is headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police -- is to constantly monitor complaints of missing persons in coordination with the Missing Persons Squad and the Crime Branch. While the DMPUs have now become functional and reports about missing persons are being meticulously tracked and recorded, some police officers feel that there is a need to adopt a judicious approach so that time and effort are not wasted on those missing people who have either been located or in whose disappearance there is no criminal angle involved.
In Delhi, the police have an institutionalised mechanism in place for enquiring into cases of missing persons. Going by the book, on receipt of any such complaint the police are required to flash a message to all the police stations relaying a description of the missing person. Hue and cry notices are then taken out and advertisements published and telecast to seek information from the public. In the case of missing juveniles, there is a standing order to compulsorily register a case of abduction if the child is not located within a short span of time.
Senior officers agree that despite these efforts there are chances that instances of organised crime like the Nithari killings may go undetected if cases of missing persons, especially juveniles, are not investigated on a priority basis. This can also happen in the absence of a sound ground-level intelligence network.
A case in point is a trend noticed in the late 1970s when there was a sudden jump in incidents of children going missing from different parts of South Delhi. Responding to the situation, the police had constituted teams to investigate the matter and caught hold of criminals who abducted the children. As it turned out, the abducted children were being forced into begging.
As this case illustrates, there is a need to take every "missing" complaint with all the seriousness it deserves because what may appear to be simple cases of "elopement" or "people going away out of their own choice'' can end up turning into Nithari-like episodes.



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