Mumbai: In times when increasingly technology is being touted as the means to increase mass connectivity, Mumbai Police have returned to the basics of patrolling, in a bid to connect with the citizens. In an initiative spearheaded by Manoj Kumar Sharma, additional commissioner of police (West region), policemen from Oshiwara to Bandra have been hitting the streets every evening, for foot patrolling and networking. Not only has foot patrolling helped policemen know the areas in their jurisdiction like the back of their hand, but it has also been a deterrent to the street thugs, said a policeman.
Back in the days when Mumbai Police hardly had any vehicles to patrol the streets, they simply walked everywhere, keeping an eye on the city. With the passage of time, police procured vans and motorcycles to keep pace and cut down on time and effort, which relegated foot patrolling to the backseat. This, however, led to a decline in police-citizen relationship with next to no connect at all.
Started over a month ago, at least 15 policemen in uniforms from 21 police stations have taken to the streets, on foot patrolling duty. Sharma said, “Along with technology-driven evidence to investigate cases, it has become a necessity to adopt conventional ways of policing in the city. Foot patrolling has many advantages in the long run — like building a good rapport with citizens, instilling confidence in them, addressing complaints of seniors, housing societies and eventually warding off criminals from the area.”
Policemen go in groups to remote areas of their jurisdiction, inaccessible to police vans and motorcycles. Their aim is to cover every area in their jurisdiction, said an officer. There have been incidents where people have complained of drug abusers thronging the footpaths outside residential societies, which has now stopped, due to regular surveillance and foot patrolling.
As part of their daily exercise, police also visit parks frequented by senior citizens and listen to their problems, helping them get an insight into their lives. Mahesh Godani, 63, a retired adman said, “We visit Juhu garden every evening and police check on us regularly. It’s a great move on the part of the police to look out for us, as some of us are hardly cared for.”
The foot patrol teams are enjoying another benefit, after walking three kilometres each day, from 6pm to 9pm, which has also proved to be a blessing for their health. “Foot patrolling is helping policemen lose their paunches. It is mandatory for every police station to send a group of uniform-clad policemen for this duty without fail. As proof, I receive fresh photographs from all 21 police stations everyday, to ensure the practice continues,” said Sharma.
Foot patrolling has led to a steep decline in the street crime in the western suburbs of Mumbai, as criminals are forewarned about police presence. Police have also returned to basics of local networking by visiting the tea and pan vendors, who were once the ‘khabris’, Mumbai Police’s eyes and ears.