CHENNAI: Not-so-instant karma. That’s what the Airport Police would have felt after they spent close to two months tracking and collaring a thief, only to find that he had been arrested for the same offence 13 years ago. Except, when Jayachandran (38) was busted for stealing 40 mobile phones in 2001, they were an expensive rarity, now they’re expensive, but commonplace.
It all began three months ago when the cops spotted a pattern in the complaints from international passengers who landed in Chennai - every two weeks, someone was grabbing handbags off the trolley, just as they were speaking to relatives or car drivers outside the arrival gate. “It became clear that someone was waiting there and watching people to see who appeared rich enough to keep mobiles, laptops or jewels in their carry cases or handbags,” explains Airport S2 Station Inspector Mahimaiveeran.
They set up a special team in plain-clothes at the crowded arrival gate and trained the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera on the target zone. But the fish didn’t take the bait. “I don’t know if he got wind that we were on to him, but there was no activity for a month and so we turned our attention to other things,” he adds. Suddenly, six days ago, a passenger walked in and complained that his bag had been pinched at the same spot - and the team swung into action again. Based on footage from the cameras and accounts of what the thief looked like before he fled on foot, they lay in wait with camera grab images of his face.
As if on cue, Jayachandran wound up at the arrival gate and was scoping out potential targets when the cops grabbed him. After some persuasion, he gave up his accomplice Nathan (48), who would take the goods and scoot home on the train. He also admitted that the goods were stashed at his house in Korattur. “When we went to his house and brought back the laptops, mobile phones and three sovereigns of gold, we found from his family that this wasn’t the first time he had been arrested,” says a police official.
As they checked up on him, the cops were surprised to find that he was a repeat offender - having been arrested in a similar manner for stealing cell phones 13 years ago. “He spent four months in jail and was released. For a while, he went back to Madurai, but now that he returned to Chennai, he could not resist trying his hand at the airport,” he adds.
He isn’t getting off as easily this time: the police are charging him with six counts of thievery and are also booking him under the Goondas Act.
private security guards irk fliers
Passengers who used the airport on Wednesday were shocked when they were asked to hurry it along by private security guards. In recent times, private security cover has been extended to the international arrival area and a few other zones that are outside the scope of the CISF and the police. However, with cars not allowed to drive up to the departure gates, people often take a little time walking through the parking lots, looking for a taxi or whoever’s receiving them. They were in for a rude shock. “One of the guards was ordering them to move quickly and not stand around, and he looked quite menacing. Finally some passengers placed a complaint with the airport manager and they were asked to move to their posts,” said a source. Engaged to keep random members of the public out of the terminal, the guards were possibly spurred on by having let a thief operate under their noses - which is why they extended their reign to other parts of the airport.