Margao: New trends seem to develop in every sphere with each passing day and thieves too are constantly upgrading themselves to learn novel ways to outsmart people of their belongings.
While it was footwear outside the places of worship earlier and chain-snatching from unsuspecting women devotees, the modus operandi of thieves too has evolved now and more and more thefts are being reported from two-wheelers parked outside churches and cemeteries.
In a recent incident reported last Sunday, a lady named Amreen Shaikh alias Akshata Vaibhav Naik, was caught red-handed stealing from bikes parked outside the Our lady of Hope Church, Chinchinim.
Shaikh was spotted sitting on bikes and trying to force the storage space open. When devotees gathered and questioned her, Shaikh said she was outside the church during the funeral Mass and was waiting to visit the church office.
However, her lie was caught as the church office is closed on Sundays. Later, a group of women forced a bunch of several scooter keys from the blouse of Shaikh and began questioning her regarding the theft.
“I didn’t want it to be a situation of having assaulted woman and despite knowing she was a thief and before situation got out of hand, police were called and she was taken to the Cuncolim police station. We also saw the same woman with two Aadhaar cards in different names,” said Chinchinim church parish priest Fr Antonio Costa. He even called the husband of the lady and spoke to him about the incident.
“I refrained from filing a police complaint when we heard she has two small children and requested my parishioners to have mercy on the lady,” he adds.
In fact, several incidents of valuables being stolen from the scooter storage space, including cash and even jewellery have been reported from vehicles outside the church from time to time.
A lucky Chinchinim resident narrated how his valuables could not be robbed as the thief’s key broke in the lock and that he had to open it with the help of a mechanic.
“I too have come across a similar incident when I went to pray at the Blessed Sacrament at Chandor Church. While I was praying inside some boys opened the storage space of my two-wheeler, stole money from my purse, without taking my purse. It was when I went to pay at a shop, I realised that I was robbed,” explains a Chandor local, Tricia Fernandes.
However, things turned awkward when the lady in her Facebook posts alleged of alleged assault and molestation and even claimed to file a case of assault against the parishioners.
She also threatened to file a defamation suit for calling her a thief and for being assaulted by parishioners for no reason or any theft case.
“I filed a report on the basis of what the priest and parishioners stated but no complaint was lodged nor filed against the lady for theft because they amicably let her off the hook. Also the lady has not filed a case of assault or defamation here, but she is free to go to court and the court can direct me to reply. But I must say she was a thief working in this manner,” PI of Cuncolim Police Station Harish Madkaikar, said.
As priests, we try to push for a amicable settlement in good faith and rule out police cases; but in this case it seems the woman misused her rights despite being the thief, explains Fr Antonio.
Cyril Leitao, president of CRCC Football club confirms the incident, showing videos of the same on WhatsApp explains that such incidents appear planned by trained gangs to steal from devotees at Mass, and is of the opinion that since the lady had a bunch of different scooter keys shows she is part of a larger gang. He feels that police surveillance or hired security at churches was required.
Citizen journalist Nelson Lopes says the locals were very agitated with the incident. [H]