Derailed: Railway thefts go unnoticed in Chennai

Chennai: Even as having their hands full dealing with IRCTC ticket scams and drug smuggling cases, personnel from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have to deal with property thefts too.

The value of items stolen inside Railway premises may be very less when compared to other big crimes that keep the RPF men on their toes, ‘but these things have huge consequences,’ said N Alagarsamy, an Inspector with the RPF.

One of the prime targets in Railway property thefts is the copper cable that is used to connect signal posts.

“A portion of cable would fetch a maximum of Rs 1,000, but it would bring the whole system to a halt. Trains would be forced to stop on their tracks leading to delay in other scheduled arrivals. Also, we would be uncertain of the public’s reaction to delay in trains and it is tough to read mob psychology,” the officer said.

In such situations, information about the faulty signal will be reported to the control room and the Railway staff, in turn, will notify the RPF.

When asked about what actions have been taken to curb this, the officer replied by saying prevention is the only way.

The department is taking various steps to stop such crimes from happening in the future. “Mostly, the men involved in these thefts are alcoholics and also repeat offenders. They indulge in these activities in order to make some quick bucks to purchase a bottle of liquor,” he added.

These men carry out their task with the aid of autorickshaw or cab drivers at the stands near the railway station.

“Some years ago, a tippler had stolen a motor from the relay box at Pallavaram station. He took us off guard,” the officer recollected.

Another popular item targeted by these burglars are the iron bars stacked on the sides of the tracks. Even if the thieves are caught, ‘the recovered stolen properties cannot be put to use again,’ the officer informed.

Sometimes, the RPF has even witnessed multiple cases on a single day, with similar thefts having been reported at Tiruvallur, Tambaram and Chengalpattu stations.

The official said that such crimes can be prevented with the installation of CCTV cameras. ‘But it would cost the Railways heavily.’

The officer revealed that the wing had requested their higher authorities to install surveillance cameras at strategic locations. “We asked them to install one between Basin Bridge and Chennai Central station. We have also increased the patrolling to curb the crime rate,” reassured Alagarsamy.

Nivedhika Krishnan