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Delhi, stomp the drunks and stop the rapes

If Delhi police cracks down on public drinking and drunk driving, crimes of opportunity will reduce significantly

Dinesh Narayanan
Published: 23, Dec 2012
Delhi Rape Protests

The thousands of people gathered at Vijay Chowk to protest the government's inability to prevent violent crimes against women in the Capital were cleared by police this morning. For the past few days, especially Saturday, the crowd relentlessly pressured the government to act. Finally, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde made a statement Saturday evening that the government will increase policing and consider stronger punishment in the `rarest of rare' cases.

An overwhelming number of outraged people want rapists to be hanged. Many think death penalty would act as an effective deterrent. That is unlikely. There is no effective method other than good policing, community involvement and a zero-tolerance policy to prevent crime. Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and police chief Bill Bratton showed that going after petty criminals can actually help prevent bigger crimes from happening. Both of them were criticised that they were not focussed on big crime. Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner present the case study in their bestselling 2005 non-fiction Freakonomics.

The strategy is based on the "broken windows" theory first published in The Atlantic magazine in 1982. The authors, George L Kelling and James Q Wilson, wrote:

We suggest that "untended" behaviour also leads to the breakdown of community controls. A stable neighbourhood of families who care for their homes, mind each other's children, and confidently frown on unwanted intruders can change, in a few years or even a few months, to an inhospitable and frightening jungle. A piece of property is abandoned, weeds grow up, a window is smashed. Adults stop scolding rowdy children; the children, emboldened, become more rowdy. Families move out, unattached adults move in. Teenagers gather in front of the corner store. The merchant asks them to move; they refuse. Fights occur. Litter accumulates. People start drinking in front of the grocery; in time, an inebriate slumps to the sidewalk and is allowed to sleep it off. Pedestrians are approached by panhandlers.

At this point it is not inevitable that serious crime will flourish or violent attacks on strangers will occur. But many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. "Don't get involved." For some residents, this growing atomisation will matter little, because the neighbourhood is not their "home" but "the place where they live." Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighbourhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

Today, many pockets of Delhi, and indeed of other metros, are heading towards the scenario. The police forces in India are severely stretched. While the sanctioned strength is one policeperson for 576 people, the actual ratio is one for 761 people.  There are 442 women police stations in the country, 196 of them in Tamil Nadu.

Though it is better off, Delhi still has only one cop for 223 people, according to data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development. Though it does not have a single women's police station, at 5285, it has the third largest number of women cops in the country. Given the limited resources, the police should use them strategically and look at ways of maximising effectiveness. One single step by the Delhi police that does not require any change of law or more force has the potential to reduce crime against women by at least half. That is, cracking down on drunk driving and public drinking, both punishable crimes under current law. Often, even people who normally would not commit a crime, cross the line in Dutch Courage. Jeanette Norris shows in this study published by VAW Net (National online resource Centre on Violence against Women) there is a clear link  between alcohol and sexual crimes.

Open spaces near liquor vends in the city turn to open-air bars by evening. Drivers of public transport vehicles — buses, taxis and autos — are often drunk. Private vehicles become cozy bars — car-o-bar in Delhi slang — by nightfall. If the city police adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards just this one menace, crimes of opportunity, which will be at least half the number of rapes and molestation on the streets, will not occur.

  • Esel Quinoa

    There's a girl fighting for her life In a hospital room. While in the street the constables scratch their balls. And some policemen chase bribes And others try to do their jobs and usually fail. Everybody's on the take and everyone steals from the public. "What's wrong with me doing it, everyone does it?" Leaders see nothing wrong with leading this farce. And still claiming to be leaders. If men chase a woman on the street, taunting her, it's her problem, or the problem of anyone brave or stupid enough to get involved. Because we live under the rule of a state that won't protect us and won't get out of the way. So anyone who stands up to this state No matter why and no matter how They stand up for that girl Because we have suffered, she has suffered, and more will die as long as we live like this without self-respect under this half-rule of half-competent and full-corrupt. Sweep them all away - all - get rid of those grand Raj buildings. Storm not just Vijay Chowk and India Gate. Storm the half-acre plots of Lutyens Delhi with crowbars Take down the windows, smash the bricks. Lay this vicious, callous, senseless raj in ruins. Let's not rest until the police are in flight The government buildings are smoking ruins And there is a new deal for the people of India A new deal A new police force A new government New rules New staff New salaries New regulations New zero-tolerance laws against anti-social behaviour New laws against corrupt policemen and officials. Nothing of the old world that allowed this to happen. No peace until then. No peace until we and our children and our mothers and our sisters are safe. No peace until Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Shinde and Manmohan Singh And Sushma Swaraj and Mamata Bannerjee and Narendra Modi And every other dung beetle that profited from this shit heap called The Government of India Has been crushed up into manure And forgotten. Forever. No peace until then.

    on Dec 23, 2012
    • AC

      I feel your anguish, Essel. But this won't be as easy. And we need our wits with our anger. Old patterns must break. But the new ones will need sensible leadership. Let's look for that. And more importantly, let's stand up and be counted. And Dinesh, is there anywhere in this country that we've done something like broken windows. Is there a local leader who like Guiliani who actually backed and rewarded the police in stopping crime? Let's write about them. Let's ensure that in 2014, the good guys at every level win.

      on Dec 24, 2012
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