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Gangs target vulnerable teens as concerns mount over global syndicates

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | December 02, 2023 05:14 PM

NEW DELHI:Concerns are mounting as communities across the country witness a significant increase in juvenile crimes, with law enforcement agencies pointing to the troubling trend of gang involvement among young individuals. The surge in criminal activities involving minors has raised questions about the influence and recruitment tactics employed by local gangs and even gangsters, including Arsh Dalla and Goldy Brar, operating from abroad.

Recent statistics reveal a sharp uptick in crimes committed by juveniles, ranging from petty theft to more serious offences such as assaults, extortion and drug-related activities. The police are now intensifying efforts to understand and address the root causes of this surge, with a particular focus on dismantling the networks that exploit vulnerable youth.

Law enforcement sources suggest that gangs are actively targeting juveniles for recruitment, taking advantage of their susceptibility to peer pressure, socio-economic challenges, and a lack of positive role models. The allure of quick money and a sense of belonging draws many young individuals into the dangerous world of organised crime.

"Unfortunately, we are witnessing an alarming trend where criminal gangs are preying on the vulnerabilities of juveniles. These gangs often use subtle coercion tactics to recruit young individuals, turning them into accomplices in illegal activities," said a senior police official.

Recently, in a major breakthrough, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police successfully busted three extortion modules operated by notorious gangs led by Goldy Brar, Lawrence Bishnoi, Kala Jhatedi, and Sampat Nehra.

Eight people connected to these criminal syndicates were apprehended, revealing an international network involved in luring juveniles for gang activities and using the extorted money for luxurious lifestyles and investments in foreign countries.

Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Singh Yadav said that this international crime syndicate had been operating across Delhi-NCR, Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, and Rajasthan.

The syndicate had developed a sophisticated modus operandi, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track their foreign funds. Each member had well-defined roles and responsibilities within the extortion rackets, displaying a high level of professionalism.

The syndicate's middlemen targeted wealthy individuals, such as bookies, gamblers, real estate dealers, builders, land grabbers, and jewellers, based on their financial status and paying capacity.

“Once the targets were selected, the gang would make demands through phone calls, letters, or visits, using various means to intimidate and threaten them. The extorted funds were then transferred abroad through hawala channels,” said Yadav.

To escalate their tactics, the gang recruited juveniles from the rural areas of Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi, aged between 15 and 20 years. These immature youths were enticed by the allure of being gang members and were contacted through internet-based services.

“They were given instructions to reach specific locations and were provided with weapons and logistical support by masked or fake identity individuals,” said Yadav.

The newly recruited members were assigned the task of conducting surveillance on the target's residence or place of business.

“After completing the surveillance, they were instructed to carry out acts of intimidation, such as firing at windows, doors, or ceilings, to scare the victims into paying the extortion amount. Following the task, the recruits were moved to changing locations to avoid detection before being given a new assignment,” said the Special CP.

The entire operation functioned smoothly, with no communication between different parts of the syndicate.

“The handler, operating from abroad using international members, coordinated with various gang members, including recruiters, logistics providers, and shooters. The syndicate frequently changed phones, SIM cards, and locations to evade law enforcement,” said the official.

The extorted funds were collected and held in safe havens abroad, using escape routes such as the "donkey" or mule route.

The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), responsible for collecting and analysing crime data in the country, has reported a concerning surge in juvenile crimes.

In 2021, a staggering 30,000 cases were registered against juveniles, with 37,444 individuals apprehended in connection with these incidents. Shockingly, nine out of ten of those arrested were found guilty in these cases.

On a daily basis, an average of 85 cases were filed against juveniles, leading to the apprehension of over 100 individuals involved in these incidents.

In a startling revelation, among the total convicts, 31,756 were reported to be residing with their parents, 3,496 with a guardian, while 2,191 were identified as homeless.

The majority of cases registered, accounting for 89.80 percent, were related to murder, indicating a pressing need for comprehensive measures to address and curb juvenile crime in the country.

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