The MIDC police, Andheri, this month, traced the users of around 200 lost or stolen phones within its jurisdiction in 2019 and 2020. The users of 117 of the 200 mobiles have returned the handsets to the MIDC police, as they were not aware that they were using a stolen or lost mobile phone.
A six-member team, comprising three officers and three members of the constabulary – made hundreds of calls a day for almost the entire month, to trace the users of 200 (of the total 300 mobile phones) stolen or lost phones.
MIDC police had started the drive after Maheshwar Reddy, deputy commissioner of police, zone 10, had directed all the six police stations in the zone to try to solve and close about 2,200 small cases registered in 2019 and 2020 within the zone.
The six-member team then started tracking all the 300 mobile phones, reported stolen or lost within its jurisdiction in 2019 and 2020.
“For a week we put surveillance on the mobile phones and found that about 200 out of the 300 phones were switched on and were being used,” said sub-inspector P Thombre, who was part of the six-member MIDC police station team.
“We tracked down the IMEI numbers of the 300 phones and found 200 of them were switched on and were being used in different states of the country,” he added.
Thombre said that the rest of the 100 phones were either dismantled or were being used after changing their IMEI numbers. It was not easy tracking these phones, as along with the locations we also needed a call data record of the 200 phones. We called the dialed numbers to find out where and by whom the stolen or lost phones were being used, he added.
“With the help of software, we eventually reached out to the 200 people who were using the robbed or missing mobile phones located at in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Chennai etc.,” said Thombre.
“We called up the users and informed them that they had been using a robbed mobile phone which made them an accessory to the crime, and they could be arrested for the same. We then asked the user to courier the phones to MIDC police station,” said Thombre, adding that we ultimately received 117 of the 200 tracked handsets.
He added that the users from UP and Bihar were non-cooperative, but users elsewhere sent their mobile handsets which we have returned to their rightful owners.
Twenty-two-year-old Niyati Menon, who works at a private firm at SEEPZ in Andheri (East), was one among those to get back the phone.
She was boarding a rickshaw in 2019 when two men on a motorcycle had snatched her mobile phone and fled. The woman, who lost all her contacts, photos in a moment, approached MIDC police.
She had forgotten about the phone and lost all hope when she received a call from the MIDC police last week that they had traced and recovered her stolen mobile phone.
Menon’s phone was traced after a month of tracking, obtaining a call data record and contacting the user of her phone in Delhi. He was not aware that he was using a robbed mobile, said the officer, adding that he couriered the handset to the police station.
“I had done a similar operation in Chandrapur which was successful and thought of replicating it here,” said DCP Reddy. “Today a mobile phone is more precious than money, for people are now storing all their contacts and other important details in their phones,” he added.
He added that other police stations in his zone too recovered a few phones but MIDC police station got back the maximum. Five other police stations in the zone have together recovered 28 stolen and lost mobiles. It included the recovery of seven phones by Jogeshwari police station, three each by Andheri and Sakinaka police stations, five by Powai police station and 10 by Amboli police station.
Encouraged by the success, MIDC police station has decided to also try track remaining stolen and lost mobiles, including about 100 handsets whose IMEI numbers are subsequently changed.
“We will continue this operation and recover the remaining phones stolen,” said Reddy.
A police officer attached to MIDC police station said maximum phones were traced to Karnataka which is emerging as a new market for robbed or missing phones, “Second-hand phones are easily available in Karnataka and many robbers travel there to sell the stolen mobiles,” said Thombre.