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CCTV, Rape: Neeraj Kumar is leading a Delhi police makeover

New Delhi: Three months in office and Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar is already turning some heat on. In less than 24-hours of the incident, the Delhi Police cracked the recent Rs 5 crore bank van heist.

In the past, agitations and processions held by Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal had left a sour taste of police high-handedness. Under Neeraj Kumar, the same agitations and processions were held during the last three months, but they went off without any notice. Even the passion generated during the Akbarbadi Masjid was kept unusually under the radar.

Neeraj Kumar, a 1976 batch officer, believes in catching the terrorist before he strikes. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, he told us that he wants to overrun the city with CCTV cameras. He has already proposed over 1000 public places, including 490 most sensitive public places, to be installed with CCTV cameras. In fact, he says, there should be a citywide surveillance system, which should pick up a person through cameras at least three-four times in a distance of 10-kilometres. And to top it all, the Delhi Police will hire video analysts, the likes of Dr Cal Lightman of the fictional American television series Lie to Me, to assist in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology by interpreting facial expressions, body language of criminals captured through CCTV cameras.

Neeraj Kumar is aware of the tags that Delhi is attached with – like ‘rape capital’, for one. But he says statistics don’t support this perception and it is not so much of a law and order problem. He thinks that the problem lies with socio-cultural roots of Delhi and neighbouring areas. Delhi’s milieu is different from the milieu that exists in the North-east or other parts of the country. Here (in Delhi), he explains, the attitude towards women is different. In the end, he feels that the Delhi police’s 'good' performance will shed all the tags. He always believes that if the police stick to the basics, things will be fine. Everything else, he says ‘is refinement’.

Neeraj Kumar, the Delhi Police Commissioner. Firstpost

Excerpts from the interview

On new initiatives

In three months, the focus is back on core policing. We are building the criminal database. This was neglected in the past. In the recent crimes, we have noticed that 'habitual' offenders are lapsing into crime, time and again. “We are not able to keep them under check due to lack of a database,” he says. The police are now feeding fingerprints of these criminals into a database. “We will now be able to trace entire past of a criminal with a click on their fingerprints.”

Who is the best – CBI or the Delhi Police

“With all due respect to the CBI where I served for nine years and where I had the good fortune to work on important cases, the Delhi Police is far superior to the CBI in certain areas. There is no police force in the country other than the Delhi Police, which is the best in areas of counter-terror work. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police is well equipped with battle ready comfits and it is the best in building up intelligence and bringing terrorists to book. We work very close with Central Intelligence agencies and even they have great respects for us.”

Is VIP security taking a toll on day-to-day policing?

“It’s a fact of life that a large number of VIPs stay in Delhi. It is also a fact that VIPs need to be protected. It is not a good signal for a country if a VIP gets hurt. Most of the VIPs are on the hit list of the terror groups. We have to provide them the security. Yes, it’s a big drain on our manpower. But this is something that we have to do and the government has provided us resources to meet the VIP security needs.”

On image of Delhi as 'Crime Capital' 'Rape Capital’ and 'Force flooded with pot-bellied cops'

“Statistics don’t support that Delhi is the crime capital or rape capital and we are definitely not the 'pot-bellied' force. There are people who are as fit as they should be. But people do have negative perceptions and there is a need to change those perceptions and those perceptions can be changed only if we deliver and if we crack important cases, like the bank heist, at regular intervals. Now people have no option but to have good word for us. Eventually, it is not pot-bellied, which would count, what would count is our performance and how we deliver.”

On media reports that policemen are not sympathetic to rape victims

“This is unfair evaluation of the Delhi Police. It is far from what the reality is. Our women officers investigate rape cases. We have rape intervention centres. My first meeting as the Delhi Police Commissioner was with leading NGOs, who are dealing with this issue. I am already reviewing the progress we have made in this regard. And I intend to have another meeting with these NGOs again.”

On whether Delhi is safe for women

“I would like to ask the citizens of Delhi how many women safely return home every night. There are thousands of women who are working until late in the evening. There are thousands of them who go out to socialise or to go the restaurants, pubs, etc. We have come across several of them who go out alone and drive back alone from these pubs and they go back safely. But one odd incident that happens is blown out of proportion that Delhi is unsafe for women.

“I do believe that It is more socio-cultural problem than a law and order one. By socio-cultural I mean that the milieu here is different from the milieu in the North-east or other parts of the country. Here (in Delhi), attitude towards the woman is different. So any outsider woman, who comes to live in Delhi, finds herself to be odd person out. That is the fact but that is not the reflection on overall policing of the city or our attitude towards women’s safety and security.”

On the growing pub culture

“Pub culture needs regulations. The Pub culture here has come in without our being responsible citizens. We have emulated pub culture from the West. I have seen it myself during my visits abroad that if a couple goes to a pub, only one of the spouses drinks. Not both. That’s their culture — if a husband is drinking, wife wouldn’t drink or vice versa. One of them will drive back home.

“I would go a step further. The whole thing about having a drink in the West is very different from what we have in some parts of our country. Here the idea of having a drink is to get drunk and abroad it is barely social kind of etiquette. You just have a drink and you feel nice and relax. And you always feel conscious how you are going to go back home.

“Here no one cares. So mere enforcement of the police and catching them drunk will not help. We have now started sending them to prison. The change in the attitude has to come.”

On Sociology of Crime in Delhi

“We have the very rich co-existing with the very poor. For every affluent colony, there is a jhuggi jhompri cluster or unauthorised colony. Domestic help, who go to work in these affluent villas, live in a state of abject deprivation. Their children don’t have excess to clean toilets or school. They see lifestyle in these homes. They also see the profligacy and extravagance in those homes. These disparities do play on their mind. And some of them who are deviated from the normal behaviour take to the crime.”

On the Modern Criminal

“The modern criminal is as much exposed to technology, as the police is. In fact, in some cases, they (economic offenders) are ahead of the police techniques. For instance, these criminals don’t use mobile phones anymore because they know that the police use the mobile phone technology to track them. They rather use Internet program like Skype or FaceTime. The police have to equip themselves to meet this challenge. So it is an ongoing battle.”

On BRT as solution for the traffic problems

“BRT is not the answer at all. Delhi Police has gone on record opposing the BRT corridor. Our vehicular population is more than the ones that exist in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata all put together. Our roads are better, but the road capacity is finite. Thus we need synergy among all the stakeholders – police, civic bodies and town planners – to construct more flyovers and interchanges. The day is not very far when we have to introduce concepts like congestion charges, as we have in Singapore or London where in certain areas where if you enter you have to pay a toll. You can’t buy a vehicle if you don’t have parking space. Or you will have to pay Cess for using public space for parking.”

On terror attacks in Delhi

“Yes, Delhi has always been more vulnerable to attacks by terror groups, more than Mumbai or any other city. We always operate on the assumption that the terror attack can take place any moment. This is not to create any panic, but on our part we presume that we can be attacked anytime. That’s why we work with more alacrity, seriousness and alertness.”

On CCTV cameras

“Progress is substantial, but there is still a room for lot more work. We need citywide surveillance system. For instance if you walk out of this building (Police Headquarter), you will be caught on camera at least half a dozen time you walk through here to the Connaught Place. That’s the kind of system we should have in Delhi. In London, if you step out of your house for the office, chances are that you will be picked up by the camera at least three to four times… In addition, we should hire video analytics, who have ability to use video material to the advantage of police. We need many more cameras and CCTV systems and the Delhi Police have proposed for installation of CCTV cameras at 1000 odd public places. Out of 1000, we have a list 490 most vulnerable places. The Delhi Police have installed CCTV cameras at 30-odd public places and 50 busy markets so far . We are trying to imbibe video analytics too.”

On witch hunting by picking up Muslim boys as terrorists, who were later acquitted by the Courts

“We are not involved in any witch hunting. Recently, we were told that there were acquittals in 16 cases. Their compilation was completely off the mark. In fact, eight out of 16 cases had ended into conviction. And in all the cases of acquittals, we have appealed to the higher court. Also, if a man is acquitted, it doesn’t mean that the case against that person was false. If it was false, there would have been strictures against the police. In none of these cases, there was any stricture against the police. They might say that people were hounded for no rhyme and reasons, but we have a job to do.”