To curb theft by minors on locals, GRP will book parents

Last month, cops caught five teenagers with 40 high-end cellphones stolen from commuters, trail led them to their adult handlers

Mumbai:  Unable to stop minors committing thefts on crowded local trains, the Government Railway Police (GRP) has decided to make parents accountable for their wards’ misdeeds. The GRP Crime Branch has decided to slap criminal charges, of receiving stolen property, against parents of such children, said officers.

Last month, the crime branch had caught five teenagers with 40 high-end cell phones stolen from commuters during rush hour. The boys led them to five men who were paying them to commit the crimes. The police said that the cellphones were sold outside the country. The boys, aged between 9 and 15 years, had been sent to a shelter home. The railway police, however, said that most boys soon return to a life of crime.

The GRP is convinced that cracking down on the parents of such juvenile offenders is the only deterrent to stop such crimes. “From now on, we will charge parents of thieving children under Section 413 of the Indian Penal Code,” senior inspector, GRP Crime Branch, D D Wadmare told Newsline.

Section 413 of the IPC attracts a prison sentence ranging from ten years to life for habitually receiving or dealing in property believed to be stolen.

“They (juvenile offenders) never stay in shelter homes for too long. Once they are out, they return to thievery. Already this year, we have caught eight boys for stealing. We want to break this cycle,” said Wadmare.

The boys caught last month, Wadmare added, committed the thefts with the full knowledge and support of their parents. “They are from very poor families and engage in petty crime. They study for only a few years and then drop out of the school to make easy money. Their parents also do not object, since they aid the family’s livelihood,” he said.

The boys had been allegedly told by the accused to steal as many cell phones as they could in a day. “Each boy stole as much as he could, depending on his capabilities. They would receive around Rs. 200 for each phone that they stole. They were given no instructions to go about their job. Each boy went about it as it suited him best. Being short, they could easily move through crowded men’s compartments, pick a target and come away with a cell phone,” he said.

Former railway police chiefs have, however, disapproved of the move to book parents for crimes perpetrated by their children. “All parents want their children to be law abiding citizens. You cannot punish parents unless they are found to be promoting the crime,” said K P Raghuvanshi, former Additional Director General of Police (Railways), who is currently Director General (Maharashtra State Security Corporation) Former Additional Director General (Railways) Raj Khilnani said in families living in slums near railway stations, parents know about their children committing crimes, even if they do not actively support them. However, he criticised the latest move by the GRP. “It is not legal. It is desperation on part of the police, which has led them to think of all sorts of means to curb theft. You can only charge the parents if they are found possessing the stolen goods,” he said.