Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recently announced that each of the Cybercrime, Economic offences, Narcotics (CEN) police stations, which are at the forefront of fighting cybercrimes in the city, will henceforth be headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police. While this was welcomed as “strengthening cybercrime investigations”, a reality check at these stations reveals they are woefully understaffed.
There are eight CEN stations in the city, one each in every police division, and each of these stations booked at least over a thousand cybercrime cases in 2023. This is after the city police began to register cybercrime cases in law and order police stations as well, reducing the caseload at CEN stations. However, on average, each of these CEN stations has just around 20 personnel.
Only 10 available for probe
“Of them, on average, only 10 personnel are available for investigations, as others are needed for administrative works such as registering FIRs, and following up on court matters. How can 10 persons investigate over 1,000 cybercrime cases in a year? These investigations are challenging and are laborious work that often involves travelling to several places across the country. This paucity of human resources will reflect in the quality of investigations,” said an inspector heading a CEN station in the city.
Not just quality, paucity of human resources, which multiple senior officials probing cybercrime cases said was the “biggest challenge”, is also reflected in the number of investigations. Out of 12,292 cybercrime cases registered at eight CEN stations in the city in 2023, only 1,079 have been detected and a whopping 9,083 cases (nearly 91%) are still “under investigation”.
To avoid CEN stations being overwhelmed, Police Commissioner B. Dayananda has now categorised cybercrimes by modus operandi and formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) to probe these cases. “These SITs have streamlined our cybercrime investigations and even our field visits, which was earlier a big drain on our resources. Now we visit these cybercrime hotspots like say Bharatpur (in Rajasthan) or Nuh (in Haryana) investigating a bunch of similar cases,” a senior official said.
Augmentation of personnel
The State government has approved an increase in the strength of Bengaluru City Police by another 2,000 personnel and the process has begun. The first batch is already under training and will join the force soon. Using these additional resources, staff strength of CEN stations will also be augmented, sources said.
“Once the new batches come in over the next two years, the strength of each of these CEN stations will go up to nearly 60 personnel,” said Mr. Dayananda.
A senior CEN official said that the new augmented strength would be a shot in the arm for the CEN stations. “Given the kind of caseload we have and the upward trend we are seeing, this will also fall short. But it is definitely far better than what we have today. We will at least stop being overwhelmed and start trying to tame the beast,” the official said.