Shootout in Chennai is relief for Jaya government
This is the breakthrough that the Jayalalithaa government and an under-pressure police has been looking for: five suspects involved in two major bank robberies in Chennai within a single month located and killed.
Chennai: This is the breakthrough that the Jayalalithaa government and an under-pressure police has been looking for: five suspects involved in two major bank robberies in Chennai within a single month located and killed.
The two bank robberies, one in January at the Bank of Baroda on the IT corridor and the the other, a few days ago, at the Indian Overseas Bank in a city suburb, Keelkkattalai, had put tremendous pressure on the government which had vowed to clear the state of criminals.
The audacity of the criminals in striking busy banks during business hours also had shocked the establishment and city residents.
The five suspects who were killed in an encounter when the police tried to surround and nab them at their flat in the city early on Thursday morning, are all from outside the state. Four are from Bihar and one from West Bengal. The police have also released their names.
This is by far the biggest encounter killing in the state — five in a single incident. In the last 10 years, about 70 alleged criminals, some of them scary history-sheeters with weird aliases, have died in police encounters.
This breakthrough, according to available information, was the result of what looks like a systematic investigation. In both the incidents, they targeted banks on city suburbs without CCTVs to ensure least evidence and easy getaways. However, they had left at least some leads on the scene: all of them spoke in Hindi, they all looked in their twenties or thirties and none of them had covered their faces. They didn’t bother, perhaps, because there were no surveillance cameras.
However, the police was smarter. If the banks targeted by the robbers had no CCTVs, that provided the clue to the police. They went to suburban banks which had CCTVs. Their logic was simple: the renegades should have done considerable recce to identify their targets without CCTVs.
The police went through hours of CCTV footage from several banks to see if there are common faces surveying the scene. The painstaking review finally paid off. They found the same guy in the footage from two different banks. He was visibly surveying the settings and making notes. He was definitely not looking for any banking work.
The police showed the footage to the employees and eye-witnesses from the banks that were robbed. They were shocked. He was one of the robbers.
Police now had the image of the suspect. They immediately released it to the public and announced an cash award of Rs 1 lakh for any specific information on him. He wore an easily identifiable red check shirt and blue jeans. He had a stubble and didn’t look to be South Indian.
Within 10 hours, the police received the coordinates of the suspect. Intelligence operatives were put on surveillance for a few hours around their place of stay - a shabby two-bedroom flat in a lower middle class neighbourhood in Velacherry. There was no ruffle in the neighbourhood and nobody knew that the police were right around the corner.
The police thoughtfully waited for a late-night/early-morning operation. A little after 1 am, plainclothesmen surrounded the flat. Some neighbours, who were still awake, were asked to stay indoors.
For the rest of the story, one has to rely on the police.
According to them, the occupants of the flat were asked to come out, but they fired at the police, injuring two of their men. The police fired back. In the ensuing encounter, what was left was five bodies, gun marks, empty cartridges and a lot of blood all over the place.
Police also recovered seven pistols and bundles of cash - in 500 and 1000 denominations.
The red check shirt that one of the suspects wore in the police footage was also found among the blood, guns and post-encounter mess in the flat.
Many of the neighbours didn’t know what happened while some heard gun shots. They also didn’t know much about the suspects since most of them kept away or stayed indoors whenever they were around. Apparently, the suspects used to disappear for days together and their only contact was with a local boy whom they had asked to fill petrol for their motorbike.
It was a clean and swift operation. The bodies have been removed to the general hospital.
This incident, despite some possible questions on the encounter, will certainly be a shot in the arm for the police in the city and the state. In the last few months, there has been a spurt in crime, particularly burglaries, murders and armed robberies.
Besides the bank robberies, another sensational strike that rocked the state was in Tirupur a couple of days ago, when a leading jewellery shop was robbed of gold and diamonds worth Rs 18 crore. The burglars had used gas cutters to make a hole on the wall to gain entry into the jewellery area.
That the suspects killed in the encounter were people from outside the state will definitely draw more attention to migrant labourers in the state. The city and the state, which had been by and large provincial in terms of its population, has seen a large influx of labourers from Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal in recent years. A number of them have been nabbed in connection with various crimes.
All the persons arrested by the NIA in a fake currency racket recently in different parts of Tamil Nadu and southern India were construction workers from West Bengal. The construction labourers are almost entirely from these states and the police is now planning to keep an oragnised tab on them.
That is another story.
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