Interview of the week
Swati Lakra, an IPS officer of the 1995 batch, who recently took charge as Additional Commissioner of Police (SIT & Crime), Hyderabad, firmly believes that avoiding an inquiry of crime would have a negative impact on the rule of law. She feels that registration of FIRs is a must on each complaint. Speaking of crime against women, she agrees that many cases still go unreported.
Swati Lakra, an IPS officer of the 1995 batch, who recently took charge as Additional Commissioner of Police (SIT & Crime), Hyderabad, firmly believes that avoiding an inquiry of crime would have a negative impact on the rule of law. She feels that registration of FIRs is a must on each complaint. Speaking of crime against women, she agrees that many cases still go unreported. Says women should come out and complain against teasers. They should assert their rights. However, if that were to happen, a lot of awareness needs to be created, she concedes. The police also need to strive to create that kind of confidence among people-friendly. As new modus operandi of crime are coming to light. the police should be more sensitive to changing times and keep evolving strategies to check the crime rate. In a candid interview with Victor Rao, Swati Lakra discusses the sense of purpose in leading the ‘SHE’ team.
How do you view the responsibility of leading ‘SHE’ teams?
What I feel is that the responsibility given to me is a godsend. It is very close to my heart and this gives me immeasurable satisfaction when I see happiness on the faces of victims and when they appreciate what my team has done to find a solution to their problems. Initially, there was quite an apprehension among the fairer sex about ‘SHE’ team and its approach, but gradually as we created awareness in schools, colleges, workplaces, etc. We got a positive response and people have started coming to us with complaints and are feeling confident in reporting such incidents. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the awareness has gone up to sixth marker.
After introducing a slew of measures including modern policing, has the police been able to bring down crime rate?
I am really not bothered about statistics and data; what I feel more important is detecting, investigating and preventing the crime. Statistics sometimes is confusing. The SHO at the PS might not register an FIR just because it was the end of the day and there would be an increase in figures, so he could be suppressing the inquiry, which is not acceptable. Figuratively, this year 150 less cases took place compared to last year. Active public assistance would definitely help the police prevent and detect various crimes, as the police cannot be present everywhere at all times. Eyewitnesses to incidents of crime should come forward to help the police nab criminals, as otherwise the detection process takes a longer time. Dial ‘100’ is the best solution which in turn redirects the eve-teasing and stalkers call to the police officer concerned. Petty cases would be booked and their fingerprints would be collected. If the offence is repeated, the person would be booked under The Criminal Law Act.
CCTV cameras help in investigation but cannot deter crime
Yes, cameras to some extent fail to deter activities that people fear, such as bomb blasts and violent crimes. They are useful only in prosecutions if the footage can establish guilt. In that scenario, patrolling vehicles fitted with GPS (global positioning system) tracking devices has proved to be more useful wherein the efficiency of policing is monitored in real time with a blend of the latest technologies which would direct them to place of incident. Also community policing is needed in crime reduction and also to maintain the law and order situation. The basic objective is to reduce crime levels, detect crimes and forge a partnership between the police and the public in the area of security. People who are in peril can approach a nearby traffic officer.
After Uber incident that rocked the entire nation what is your advice to younger generation?
Prevention is always better than cure. I request all the women to be extra cautious while boarding a private cab or an auto-rickshaw. With little presence of mind and ingenuity, girls can protect themselves and avert an uncomfortable situation and save themselves from any untoward incident. Going in a taxi should not be a gamble for one’s safety. Trust your instincts. Avoid unregistered private vehicles who attempt to pick up passengers in busy areas, often offering cheaper fares than the other vehicles. Click a picture of the driver and the vehicle number and send it to your friends and family members. Keep an eye on the route. Avoid unfamiliar and deserted routes, though it is a shortcut. Many software applications are available in the market. On a safer side, the working professionals should download them and use them as tracking device.
The State government’s objective is to make Hyderabad a Smart City. What would be the enhanced role and responsibility of cops?
Doing our job religiously and in mutual aid would be more than enough. In fact, the department is leaving no stone unturned in carrying out its responsibilities. Apart from our core functional area, we are working in tandem with others, pursuing our desired goals. Definitely, we have the challenge of making the city a smart one and this would be only possible with devotion and perseverance. A few things are in the pipeline including technical training and sensitising, soft skills, etc. within the department which we are looking into. With the government’s proposal of 33 per cent of reservation for women in police, it would be an attempt to improve female representation in the police force and to control crime against women. The move would ensure availability of women personnel for the help desk at every police station. The help desk will have a receptionist, a counsellor, a legal advisor (for better case recording) and one or two constables. Instead of creating separate women police stations, I would prefer recruiting of women personnel in each police station so that each PS would have enough women cops to handle things in an easy manner.
You are an experienced police officer and you have also served the regions which are deeply affected by Maoists. What was your experience?
I served in the Maoist-affected areas as SP in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam, which was a challenging phase for me. We try communicating with the Maoist through their family members and friends asking them to surrender. Sometimes it fructifies. Though the whole process involves a testing time, it gives a sense of pride. The surrendered Maoists will be given the reward that is on their head and provided rehabilitation so that they can join the mainstream. We have to constantly pursue innovative tactics to tackle them. This could be through enforcement of law relentlessly targeting those who lead criminal lifestyles. We look for cohesive plans that get maximum results. So, it is a mixture of good days and bad days.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
I felt I was chosen for that. Frankly speaking, I never ever thought of joining any other service. Right from the beginning, my aim was to join IPS. I am very happy because I know that this job is god’s purpose for my being on this planet. Moreover, I liked the idea because I enjoyed the very thought of making a difference in the community.