Kalachowkie resident Jatin Dedhia would have gotten away with orchestrating his wife Beena’s murder if the police hadn’t accessed the call records on his alternative mobile that exposed his link to the killers-on-hire.
If a review of newly solved cases is conducted, the role of technology will feature in most of them. Earlier manual policing needed weeks, if not months, to establish the identity of an accused, or the victim, but new-age digital aids—be it CCTV, call detail records or DNA profiling—have hastened the process.
Mumbai police’s tech allies include around 10,000 cameras on the closed-circuit television (CCTV) network (plus another 70,000 put up by companies and housing societies), drones for unmanned monitoring (as was done during the Covid lockdown) and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras on major roads.
“Upon the commission of a crime, the initial action taken is to review technical evidence like CCTV footage and other electronic footprints in order to obtain intricate details pertaining to the incident and potential perpetrators,” Brijesh Singh, additional-director general of police, who earlier headed the Maharashtra cyber department.
It’s estimated that CCTVs help either solve or provide valuable clues to over 1,000 cases every year. This is a small number considering that 174 different types of crimes are registered every day in Mumbai. Experts, though, say this is just the start of the digital revolution blowing across the world of policing.
Most of the tech upgrade of the Mumbai police is a part of the two-phase Mumbai City Surveillance Project. A month back, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced installation of a state-of-the-art policing mechanism—face recognition cameras with artificial intelligence (AI)—across Mumbai as a part of the second phase.
Already, Mumbai, along with the rest of Maharashtra, is creating a digital database of criminals using face and iris recognition along with fingerprint scanning technologies. With forensic tools such as DNA testing/profiling, chemical analysis, voice stress analysis (to check difference in a person’s voice), and voice fingerprinting, the future in policing appears to be almost here.
The tech upgrade helps in different ways as the Economic Offences Wing of Mumbai police found out last month. They tapped the open source intelligence (OSINT), which helps gather information about criminals, cases or websites, to zero down on 73-year-old city developer Jagdish Ahuja.
Ahuja, who was hiding in Punjab, had changed his location and switched off his mobile phone, but EOW examined the social media accounts of some of his family members and relatives and tracked his location before rushing to arrest him.
Technology has also been a boon for police coordination and administration in other ways as well. The police now submit voluminous chargesheets on pen drives instead of making zerox copies of thousands of pages. The amount of paper saved can be gauged from the recent pen drive submission of a 2.74-lakh-page chargesheet in the NSEL scam of over Rs 5,400 crore where each of the three dozen accused had to be given a separate copy.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the police have started virtual communication via video conferencing. For police stations located 30 km from the city commissioner’s office, the tech move saves on time, fuel and man hours.
Cyber expert Nikhil Mahadeshwar said, “Today there are a lot of technological advancements that are being used to track down traditional crime and cyber crime both. There are tools to analyse CDR and IP data records (IPDR) by which police are getting maximum locations, callings details etc.’’ He said that through an IPDR, the police are able to analyse the IP address where the internet is used for committing crimes. “DVR automated tools help to assess CCTV footage. OSINT is used to gather information about criminals or any type of case or website,” he added.