Author : Ramanath Jha

Expert Speak Urban Futures
Published on Oct 31, 2019
An analysis of crime in India’s largest urban agglomerations

In October 2019, India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released crime statistics for the year 2017. For the sake of appropriate comparison, the NCRB has provided crime rates in terms of crime per lakh population. This is a more accurate reflection of the law and order situation in a state rather than absolute numbers that do not factor in the size of the state. Furthermore, the Bureau has bifurcated data on crimes such as murder, kidnapping and abduction, crimes against women, children, senior citizens, economic offences and cyber-crimes. Of particular interest for this article is that the Bureau provides data in two sets – one on the states and one on the 19 largest ‘metropolitan cities’ exceeding two million population. The latter set of data, in actuality, is on urban agglomerations, and hence Kozhikode, Coimbatore, Kochi, Ghaziabad and Patna are included in the data set. These cities are smaller than two million but cross that mark as urban agglomerations (UA).

It would be appropriate to point out that while the NCRB provides statistics on UAs with populations above two million, some of the UAs are high on the demographic ladder and go right up to populations of 20 million and beyond. The five largest are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. Of the 19 UAs, three each fall within the states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, two each in Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and one each in Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and West Bengal. For comparison, this article has clubbed together six UAs (Delhi, Ghaziabad, Jaipur, Kanpur, Lucknow and Patna) as northern UAs and six others (Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kochi and Kozhikode) as southern UAs. In the interest of simplicity, all decimals in regard to crime rates have been dispensed with.

In terms of IPC crimes, Delhi’s rate of 1,306 (per lakh population) far exceeds any other UA. Kochi, Patna, Jaipur and Lucknow follow with crime rates of 809, 751, 683, and 600. The lowest crime rates with regard to IPC crimes are in Kolkata (141), Coimbatore (144), Hyderabad (187), Mumbai (212) and Chennai (221). The northern UAs in terms of IPC crime rates are about two times higher than southern UAs.

In terms of fatal attacks that have resulted in deaths, Patna tops the list, with a crime rate of nine murders per lakh population. It is followed by Nagpur (eight), Indore, Jaipur and Bengaluru (three each). The lowest crime rates for murder are reported from Kozhikode, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad – all clocking below one murder per lakh population. Here, the northern UAs have almost three times higher crime rates than the southern UAs.

Delhi tops the crime rate chart for kidnappings and abductions with a rate of 32, followed by Indore (31), Patna (27), Lucknow (24) and Ghaziabad (23). The lowest crime rates are recorded by Coimbatore, Chennai, Kozhikode, Kochi and Kolkata, all below three. Here, the northern bloc has a crime rate seven times higher than the southern.

In regard to crimes against women, Lucknow has the highest rate of 179, followed by Delhi (152), Indore (130), Jaipur (128) and Kanpur (118). The lowest rates are reported from Coimbatore (seven), Chennai (15), Surat (28), Kolkata (29) and Kozhikode (33). Here again, the northern UAs have recorded a crime rate three times higher than the southern UAs.

For crimes against children, Delhi ranks the first with a crime rate of 35, followed by Mumbai (19), Bengaluru (eight), Pune (seven) and Indore (four). The lowest rates are recorded by Coimbatore, Ghaziabad, Patna, Kochi and Kozhikode, all below one. Senior citizens are the worst off in Mumbai with a crime rate of 30, followed by Delhi (20), Ahmedabad (14), Chennai (13) and Bengaluru (five). The best UAs for the old are Kanpur, Indore, Kozhikode, Ghaziabad and Patna, all below one. Here, as an exception, the northern bloc emerges kinder to senior citizens than the southern.

Jaipur emerges the leading UA in terms of economic offences (141), followed by Lucknow (65), Bengaluru (41), Delhi (30) and Kanpur (26). Coimbatore, Chennai, Kozhikode, Patna and Ahmedabad rank the lowest in economic offences, all below 10. A factor of more than two separates the northern UAs from the less crime-prone southern UAs. As the information technology hub of India, Bengaluru, leads in cyber-crimes (32), followed by Jaipur (22), Lucknow (21), Kanpur (eight) and Mumbai (seven). Chennai, Kozhikode, Coimbatore, Delhi and Kolkata are at the bottom of the list with crime rates lower than two.

An analysis of all the above data reveals that Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Indore and Patna have the highest average crime rates across crime categories among top UAs of the country. At the other end are Kozhikode, Coimbatore, Chennai, Kolkata and Kochi with the lowest average crime rates among top UAs.

It is generally acknowledged that cities have a greater propensity to crime and that megacities have a higher crime rate than smaller cities. The 1994 Statistical Abstract of the United States, for instance, found that metropolitan cities had 79 percent more crime than other American cities and 300 percent more violence than rural areas. Further, New York and Los Angeles, the largest US cities, had crime rates that were approximately four times higher than other metropolitan areas. The reasons assigned to this phenomenon of more crime in cities are greater access to wealth, greater anonymity on account of large-size-cum-high-density and hence lower probability of arrest and the larger urban ability to attract crime-prone individuals.

In the Indian context, a lot more work needs to be done to establish causality behind urban crime. There appears to be no clear-cut conclusion that could be drawn from the NRCB statistics scrutinized above. For instance, Delhi as the largest UA sits at the top of the crime rate table. However, it is not followed by Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai that are the next largest UAs. In fact, the three are among the UAs that have the lowest crime rates among top UAs.

Part of the NCRB data confirms the greater proclivity of cities to crime. Thus, the northern UAs have crime rates that are higher than the rates of the states to which they belong. This is true of IPC crimes, murders, kidnapping and abduction, crimes against women, economic offences and cyber-crimes. However, this fact does not hold true for the southern states since their UAs, in general, display lower crime rates in the cited categories than the states to which they belong. For instance, for IPC crimes, Patna, Jaipur and Lucknow have rates of 751, 693 and 600 while Bihar, Rajasthan and UP have rates of 171, 229 and 139 respectively. If we explain this by the reasoning that it is natural for urban areas to have more crime, then this is not demonstrated by southern UAs. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana and Karnataka have IPC crime rates of 256, 656, 323 and 232. But Chennai, Coimbatore, Kozhikode and Hyderabad have rates of 221, 144, 235 and 187 – all lower than their state averages. This should lead us to investigate other sets of causes – propensity to criminal behavior of different sets of people, migratory populations, quality of policing and policemen per lakh population, criminal justice system and such others.

Establishing the causality of crime in relation to the nature of its settlements is a complex issue. India is still in the midst of urbanization, hence this is a subject worthy of deep and wide investigation. The results may light up the path of India’s choices with regard to the pattern of growth for its cities and towns.

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Ramanath Jha

Ramanath Jha

Dr. Ramanath Jha is Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai. He works on urbanisation — urban sustainability, urban governance and urban planning. Dr. Jha belongs ...

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