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YEAR- WISE TRENDS
Mumbai: region-wise crime statistics, 2013-18
2017: Crime declines after crackdown
In Thane, when people talked about crime earlier, it was mostly the chain snatchers they were referring to. But that was before the police crackdown in 2016, which revealed that the Mumbai suburb had turned into a hub for international crime cartels linked to narcotics smuggling, call centre hoaxes and even identity theft.
In June last year, Thane police named former Bollywood actor Mamta Kulkarni's husband Vicky Goswami, an alleged drug trafficker, as the main suspect in an international racket. With others including Manoj Jain, owner of a local pharma unit, Avon Lifesciences Ltd, he was allegedly involved in manufacturing and exporting ephedrine-a starter chemical used to make crystal methamphetamine. Thane DCP (Crime) Parag Manere says it was the fortuitous arrest of a Nigerian in Sheel village that led to the drug syndicate's unravelling.
Thane hit the headlines again last October with the exposure of a fake call centre. Functioning from Mira Road area, dozens of operators posing as tax officials, allegedly swindled scores of American and Australian citizens of crores of rupees. The call centre workers would call the victims posing as employees of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), harassing victims for 'unpaid' taxes, saying they would be arrested. Later, they used to 'settle' the matter, after accepting amounts ranging from $500 to $3,000 in pre-loaded cards. The police estimate they fleeced victims to the tune of Rs 500 crore.
Then in January, police detained seven people from Bhiwandi with some 12,000 SIM cards. Manere says the gang had randomly downloaded 50,000 photographs from Facebook profiles and were using these to forge documents and procure SIM cards. They used to sell the forged documents at Rs 100 each to anyone who wanted to get a SIM card. The police are investigating whether the cards were being used by anti-social elements.
The latest incident came in late January, when the police unearthed an 'oil company' in Ambernath which used to sell products in Gulf countries using the brand name Gulf Oil, impersonating the oil giant. "We suspect it has some connection in Australia," Manere says.
Thane police commissioner since March 2015, Param Bir Singh, doesn't agree that the recent busts point to a spike in crime. He attributes successes like the Mira Road bust to a more efficient response and intelligence, saying "earlier, tip-offs were strangely ignored".