Rise and SHYNe, Kochi
Kochi residents welcome city police campaigns focusing on apartment complexes
Shady. Crime. Murder. Mafia. Gangs. Drugs. Rape. Fraud. These are some of the terms that the beautiful city of Kochi is tagged with of late. “Kochi is a mini Mumbai, and it’s in hi-tech mode these days,” says a senior crime reporter based in Thiruvananthapuram. No, it wasn’t a compliment, but a jibe at the city’s crime scene.
Rising crimes have, in fact, kept the city police on its toes. Far from yesteryear gangs, the focus has now shifted to “flat culture” and apartments. A gruesome murder in which the body of a youngster was recently found wrapped in a bedspread and shoved into the duct of a 16th-floor apartment in Edachira near Kakkanad was a case in point.
Currently, the city police are reaching out to the public to enhance surveillance and strengthen crime prevention. For instance, the recently launched ‘Say Hello to Your Neighbour’ (SHYNe) initiative of the police aims to strengthen surveillance and safety through community bonding.
‘Know thy neighbour’
Last week, City Police Commissioner C H Nagaraju launched the SHYNe ‘hashtag’ campaign. #KnowThyNeighbour, #smileandsaysomething, #gossipoveracupoftea are some of the hashtag posters released to encourage residents to mingle with neighbours. “These days, especially in apartments, the residents don’t know the people living in the same building,” says Nagaraju.
“So there’s a chance of the environment becoming insecure. This can lead to the rise of illegal elements. If a stranger loiters in the apartment complex, the residents might assume the person to be someone living there. However, if you know other residents, you can alert neighbours in case of suspicion.”
Nagaraju adds the primary goal is to “create awareness on the importance of knowing one’s neighbours”.
“Gradually, we would encourage the need for more social gatherings and building healthy, happy communities,” he says. Nagaraju points to the recent Kakkanad murder, which was linked to narcotics. “It was shocking that the neighbours did not know about it for two days,” he notes. “Though the place was visited by drug abusers, none bothered to report it to the police.”
Nagaraju says the public has been “receptive of the idea” of community building. “Several associations have confirmed that they would make this work effectively,” he adds. “Gauging the response, we believe the people wanted such a nudge.”
The police campaign is commendable, says Munsiff Judge Karthika K, who stays at Nagarjuna Pearl Bay Apartments in Kadavanthara. “The Kakkanad incident should serve as an eyeopener,” she adds.
“We all know about the growing crime rate and drug menace. Personally, I would want my children to be in a safe and secure environment. Taking a break from our fast-paced lives, we must take an initiative to promote harmonious living.”
Karthika adds every apartment complex should have a system of community building programmes. “New flat buyers or tenants should be introduced to others,” she says. “It is important to have a healthy social support system. That’s something that is eroding from our society these days.” High Court lawyer Nithya Sugunan, who is president of Galaxy Castello Flat Owners’ Association in Vyttila, agrees.
“Flat owners generally have cordial relations. But, as far as the tenants are concerned, many don’t encourage such interactions. There have been instances of tenants not being willing to fill KYC forms.”Nithya adds the police should “release a circular” to ensure that the initiative is taken seriously.
‘Threat of intrusion’
Radio jockey Nidhi Sebastian gives the police a thumbs-up. “Good relations with neighbours are important, especially when one is living alone,” she says. “The assurance of having someone to look out for you is a blessing. Once when a person tried to intrude on my privacy, it was my neighbours who came to rescue.”
Nidhi, however, adds there is only a thin line between bonding and intrusion into privacy. “Many people in Kerala fail to respect each other’s privacy,” she says. “So, such campaigns come with the threat of intrusion into our private lives. Also, we already live in a society that is judgmental and relishes
The police commissioner brushes aside such concerns, saying it is clearly stated nobody has the right to intrude into another person’s privacy. “These initiatives have to be treated in a pleasant way,” he says. “After all, an apartment has public as well as private spaces. There must be a healthy balance”
Another city police move that made news recently was ‘Operation Nireekshanam’. The campaign targets to increase the number of CCTV units in the city to two lakh, with the help of residents’ associations. This project, too, was launched following the Kakkanad murder. “We have requested the residents’ association to install, repair and reorient CCTV cameras,” says Nagaraju.
“Be it drug abuse, murder, or theft, the majority of the recent cases happened in apartment complexes that had frequent visitors. So effective surveillance is a must.” As per guidelines issued, new tenants should obtain police clearance via the Pol-App. As part of the campaign, officers concerned urge the public to inform police about frequent visitors at odd hours, unknown vehicles, suspicious or unusual activity, etc.
An officer says the apartment complexes and residents’ associations would be classified as A+, A, B, C and D categories based on “security management, unity among residents, frequency of meetings, CCTV system, etc”.
Several apartment complexes in the city have started implementing directives. “We’ve strengthened the need to get the rental agreement copy from the owners,” says Joseph George, residents’ association president of Noel Arcadia in Padamughal.
“It is mandatory for owners to list all norms of the association in the agreement.” At the nearby NJK Vijay apartment complex, owners’ association president Jayaraj I V says CCTV surveillance is being strengthened. “We have installed new units and also re-oriented the existing ones. Curbs on visitors and delivery boys will be tightened.”
However, there are also grumbles over apartment complexes barring young, unmarried tenants. “A few of my friends have been looking for accommodation. But apartment associations are not permitting them,” says Parvathy Ranjit, teacher. “This is quite harsh on youngsters, especially those who come to the city for jobs.”
A similar grouse is on stringent restrictions on timing and visitors. “Legally, it is not correct for residents’ association to impose restrictions that curb one’s rights,” says Nithya.