Cops Turn Buddies for Working Women

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Women’s safety has been one of the burning issues in India. In recent years, an increasing number of cases of their victimization have been registered. Police across the country have been kept on their toes trying to grapple with the increasing crime rate against women. Maharashtra Police has initiated several steps for safety of women. The cops have started using the social media platform more effectively as majority of the citizens are connected to it.

Many mobile friendly apps have been launched by the police just to get in touch with the women in various towns and cities. Last year under the supervision of Rashmi Shukla, an IPS officer of the 1988 batch, the Pune city police came up with an application to enable women in distress to reach the police faster for help. It’s called the ‘Buddy Cop’ application.

65,000 working women in buddy cop groups

The ‘Buddy Cop’ project was a response to two murders at Hinjewadi, the city’s IT hub. The victims were techies Antara Das in November 2016 and Rasila Raju OP in January 2017. Spread across 19 police stations, there are close to 65,000 working women who have already enrolled in the ‘Buddy Cop’ groups.

Ever since its launch, several cases have been registered and the accused have been caught. Not just that, quite a few women have sought help, whether it was to travel from one place to another when they did not feel safe or when they needed to deal with any issue that directly affected them.

Rashmi Shukla, CP Pune has been visiting colleges and offices to spread awareness of the initiative. The app has already started proving its worth.

Radhika Phadke, Head of Pune’s cybercrime cell who is currently heading this initiative, explained this women empowering measures. “Whoever wishes to be a part of the Buddy Cop initiative registers with the nearest police station, and is added onto a WhatsApp group of the same police station. The group admin is your buddy cop and can be contacted at any given point in time. If and when this particular cop is off duty, there is someone else who will take up your request or complaint, thus making this service available to women all the time”.

At the moment, the Buddy Cop initiative has within its purview police stations in Pimpri, Nigdi, Bhosari, Chaturshringi, Hinjewadi, Mundhwa, Hadapsar, Wanowrie, Vishrantwadi, Chandan Nagar and Viman Nagar to name a few. The first FIR was registered under the initiative at Hadapsar police station. A woman working in an IT company had registered a complaint against the watchman of the company, who was secretly taking her pictures in the ladies washroom.

Once the women are added to the group, they can either put in a message for the admin to get in touch with them, or can even directly call the admin. Once contact is made, the ‘buddy cop’ will immediately either go to the spot to assist the woman, or deploy someone who is closer to where the help is needed. In situations where help is needed in a completely different area, which is not under the jurisdiction of the Buddy Cop, the nearest police station will be informed and someone from there will take action. The objective is to ensure that the response time is as minimal as possible.

Every step towards safety of the women is a step towards development. The women employees will be given numbers of Buddy Cops who mostly be police personnel with whom they can discuss everything related to their safety. Along with this app, another application was introduced, the CitySafe application for all the citizens to report on any suspicious activity and rate places on their safety quotient.

“There was a need to make the women feel safe in the city, especially after the two murders at the IT belt in Hinjewadi. That was the main reason the project was born. Women can get in touch for absolutely anything that they need assistance for, even if it is something as simple as them feeling scared to travel in a certain area of the society alone. Initially, the response was very slow but, in the last month, we have seen thousands of women join the initiative. Awareness workshops to spread the reach even further are still being carried out,” Phadke added. After streamlining the initiative in Zone III and IV, the future plan includes taking this to the other zones as well.

Through this, groups of 15-20 women employees can be connected to a police officer. This will aid them in panic situations.

Some registered cases

under the Buddy Cop app

■ On July 13, a woman from Pimpri was travelling to Goa at night via the Nizamuddin Express. She was the only woman in the compartment and there were a few other men along with her. After her repeated attempts to move to another compartment or ask the men to shift proved in vain, she finally got in touch with her Buddy Cop. As soon as the message was received on the WhatsApp group, the admin got in touch with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to check where her train had reached and immediate help was provided. She was moved to another compartment and was eternally grateful to the cops for their prompt aid.

■ A woman living in Masulkar colony, Pimpri, who is on one of the Buddy Cop WhatsApp groups, got in touch with the admin about a suspicion she had about one of her neighbours. The woman claimed that there was a blind couple living nearby, with another girl. The behaviour of the girl and the couple made her suspect that she was not their daughter and that there was some foul play involved. The cops immediately visited the family and began questioning. Upon probing, it was established that she was indeed their daughter, so no complaint was filed.

■ A college girl was getting calls and being sent vulgar messages from an unknown number. When the Buddy Cop was informed and took to tracking the number, it was revealed that someone from her distant family itself was making those calls to her. After a lot of questioning and talking to the girl, she decided not to register a complaint against the other person.

■ A woman had reported that her ATM card was lost and that a certain amount had been debited from her account. Based on where she had last used the card and could have lost it, the cops investigated and spoke to the owner of the shop where the card was last used. After filing an FIR, the CCTV cameras were checked, people were questioned and within a few days, the accused was arrested.

■ About a month ago, there was a request from one of the women on the Buddy Cop group that she needed someone to assist her to her male friend’s house. A few days ago, this friend had borrowed her bike but had not returned it. While she wanted to go to his house to take back her bike, she was not very comfortable going there on her own as he lived alone. After she explained her problem to the group admin, someone from the police station called up her friend and ensured that the bike was delivered to her house and the issue was resolved.

■ A woman who worked in Viman Nagar felt she was being stalked as she found one person always near her office. She was suspicious that he was following her. She got in touch with the admin of the Buddy Cop group that she was on, and the beat marshals present in that area were informed. They reached the spot in a few minutes and spoke to the guy who she felt was stalking her. It turned out that he had some work in the same area around the same time.