Mumbai crime down during COVID-19 lockdown; sparse public movement, decreased reporting may be why
Reported cases of several crimes in Mumbai declined marginally during March, and then reduced sharply in April.
Most crimes in Mumbai saw a sharp reduction during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in place in the city since 13 March, month-wise data of the city police showed.
Reported cases of several crimes declined marginally in March, and then reduced sharply in April — when strict curbs on public activities were in place throughout the month. Crime rates increased slightly in May, but remained at low levels compared to pre-lockdown levels.
While, as can be seen above, several crime heads have seen a reduction in figures, the total number of crimes actually increased in the city from February to April, due to incidents classified in the police’s monthly reports under the head of ‘Other IPC’ Sections. Speaking to Firstpost, Mumbai Police spokesperson Pranay Ashok said that this included FIRs registered against people for violating lockdown regulations.
The police have been invoking various legal provisions against those violating the lockdown, including Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) Section 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), as well as sections of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
However, lawyer Abhay Anturkar believes that there could be more to the statistics mentioned in the police's monthly reports than what meets the eye. He said, “While some crimes may indeed have reduced due to the lockdown, there are two more possibilities that one needs to keep in mind. Firstly, in some cases, crimes may be taking place but people may not be reporting them to the police due to the restrictions on movement. Secondly, there may also be cases in which people report crimes to the police, but the police do not take cognisance of these incidents, since enforcing the lockdown takes up too much of their time. For example, in the present circumstances, if there is a minor scuffle somewhere, the police may not want to take up such a case and add to its burden.”
Anturkar further said, “Due to the lockdown, there may also be difficulties in getting non-cognisable cases registered. For such cases, one has to approach a court to get an FIR registered. However, people may not be able to access courts, and courts are only taking up urgent matters.”
However, Pranay Ashok asserted, “Crimes reduced in Mumbai in the past few months as fewer people were out in the streets, and most were at home due to the coronavirus lockdown. It would not be correct to say that crime figures are low because incidents are not being reported to the police.”
Timeline of lockdown
On 13 March, the Maharashtra government had invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to order the closure of cinema halls, gyms, swimming pools and malls in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur. These were the first restrictions on public activities imposed in Mumbai with a view to combat the novel coronavirus, at a time when only three cases of the disease were reported in the financial capital.
On the next day, the state government announced the closure of all schools, colleges and coaching classes in all municipal corporations, municipalities and nagar panchayats till 31 March. Through another circular on the same day, state health minister Rajesh Tope ordered officials not to give permission for social, cultural, political, religious and sports programmes.
Subsequently, on 22 March, the Centre issued a list of 75 districts in which only essential services would be operational till the end of the month. The districts of Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban were part of this list.
From 3 May, the Maharashtra government lifted some restrictions in non-containment zones in the state. In Mumbai, five non-essential shops were allowed on each lane, which may have partially led to more public movement.
In all, there were four phases of the lockdown in Mumbai till the end of May, after which the state government issued guidelines for phase-wise relaxations under the ‘Mission Begin Again.’
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