undercover for a good cause
London's crime busters are increasingly
worried at the rate offences are being committed by sections of
the city's substantial Tamil community. From murders most brutal
to arson, assaults, credit card frauds and other scams to misdemeanours
like shoplifting have engulfed the generally law abiding Tamil community
as a few criminal elements bring disgrace to them all.
sleuths are now worried that these crimes involving Sri Lankan Tamils
might be spreading across the length and breath of London adding
to the policing problems created by Caribbeans, Russians and Eastern
While the visible
presence of the police in the way of uniformed cops has increased
in areas where concentrations of Sri Lanka Tamils live, other sleuths
have gone undercover to unravel crimes that run into several millions
Most of the
financial crimes are connected with credit cards- stolen, forged,
cloned-and some times involve a network of people collecting funds
for the LTTE. Just last year two LTTE fund-raisers, reportedly good
friends at one time, clashed over siphoning off some of the funds
for personal use resulting in one brutally killing the other.
has helped to commit many frauds now, police will tell you. Buying
goods and services via Internet when credit cards and other details
are made available have helped criminals to 'lift' this data and
use it in their scams. Police have shown little machines used in
stealing credit card details by swiping them unnoticed.
But as some
Sri Lanka Tamils will divulge if you have established some rapport
with them, their criminal activities were not always such "hi
As they readily
admit much of the criminal activities started in the post-July 1983
phase when there was a huge influx of Tamils arriving in Britain
seeking asylum after the utterly inhuman treatment of the community
in the riots that year.
mainly to the west brought in its wake LTTE cadres or its supporters
and sympathisers. As police here point out many of those involved
in violence seem to have been involved in violence as active members
of the LTTE or other militant groups.
They also brought
over to their new homes domestic conflicts and old vendettas.
who were admitted as refugees or were awaiting formal decisions
became involved in petty crimes and misdemeanours to survive or
because they had little to do.
and "nicking" a few things from here and there became
quite a habit. Some time back a young Tamil who said his name was
Sivalingam and was generally known as Siva used to tell me how he
and a few friends "operated" then.
He said they
began avoiding prominent supermarkets after several Tamils were
nabbed trying to steal mainly food or utility items.
failures they discovered security cameras were installed in most
major supermarkets or employed their own security staff in civilian
So Siva and
his friends went for small grocery shops often run by Indians from
where they would pinch goods easy to lift undetected.
Some of it
could be sheer bravado but he said they had a system worked out
over a period. This included being frequently seen in one or more
shops where they would make genuine purchases and become well acquainted
with the shop owners. They, like Caesar's wife, were above suspicion
when goods were nicked.
would go outside their area and steal, generally working in pairs.
After that "one shot" they would stay away for months
before returning to the place.
Even if they
were caught, as had happened three or four times, shop owners did
not call the police for they feared retaliation like arson or physical
violence by Tamil gangs. Or the hassle of police inquiries and appearing
in court in the event of a case was not commensurate with the value
of the stolen items.
the media mentioned police undercover operations to ferret out criminal
elements big and small, an idea flickered in my own mind.
Why not try
out something myself? Recently I watched a BBC "Panorama"
programme where a woman journalist pretending to be an asylum seeker
exposed many illegal activities and State administrative failures.
the 9/11 terrorist attack and security was beefed up at Heathrow
Airport, a couple of journalists went underground and exposed major
security lapses. Others have been involved in "sting"
operations pretending to be a rich Arab or somebody else in urgent
need of false papers such as passports.
Of course I
couldn't engage in credit card scams or go about murdering people.
So I started at the bottom.
family and friends- except a diplomat- I thought by shoplifting
with the help of previous advice from the redoubtable Siva who I
haven't encountered for many months, I could at least make shopkeepers
alive to police advice that is often ignored by the public-the need
for enhanced security at a time of rising crime
From a shop
I visit almost daily I pinched a pack of "roast" paan(bread).
The same day I went to another grocery store from where I took two
so-called Bombay onions.The next day I picked up two tomatoes from
another shop and a day later a beetroot.
But this was
small time stuff from small shops. So I tried my hand at the mini-supermarket
where I buy my daily newspapers. Over a period of 10-12 days I took
four newspapers apart from what I normally bought.
to spot me and it was becoming somewhat of a bore by now.
So one day
I pinched a paper more openly hoping to be spotted.
And this time
they did. One of the owners-an Indian from East Africa- appeared
to go ballistic and alleged that I had pinched a magazine the previous
That of course
was false because he sold the kind of magazine I hardly read. So
why didn't he catch me then? He had to say a thing or two because
I had exposed the lack of vigilance and that they were easy pickings.
Now I had to
test Siva's theory that they wouldn't go to the police, for one
reason or the other. Even if they did I had my press identity card
and the real reason why I did what I did, especially since I had
enough money in my pocket at the time to buy all his other newspapers
and magazines too.
He wanted to
call the police, he said, but he wouldn't. His 'generosity' bemused
me. Siva was correct about it as he was correct about a few other
things. It was easy. They wouldn't call the police.
from Uganda or Kenya or wherever must be entertaining his friends
with the story of how he nabbed a shoplifter.
And in the
store from which I took the roast paan, we have been having a good
laugh over it, unknown to him.