Police nab ‘shutter offenders’ after 3-month hunt

After a three-month search, the Chennai city police nabbed a three-member gang that broke open the shutters of 31 shops in 17 police station limits and stole goods worth over a crore of rupees.

According to the police, the gang, called ‘shutter offenders,’ used to come out of their hideouts in the suburbs in the dead of the night, break open the shutters of shops and steal goods. The stolen goods would be carried in a goods carrier by the gang members, while the leader moved around in a SUV alone to avoid suspicion.

The first theft by the gang came to light three months ago. The gang had struck at 30 more shops without leaving any evidence.

The burglars always took away the digital video recorder (DVR) containing CCTV footage from the shops.

A special team led by Assistant Commissioner of Police V. Vinodh Santharam analysed the CCTV footage in places near the burgled shops and stumbled upon a vital clue.

At one place near Korattur, a person was seen driving a silver coloured SUV and two others followed him in a goods carrier.

The vehicles were found moving towards the Korattur bridge and stopped at Senthil Nagar, Korattur.

Three days ago, a burglary was reported at a mobile phone shop in Kotturpuram. The police found the same vehicles in the CCTV footage from that area.

The special team laid a trap to nab the accused on receiving a tip-off that they would strike again on Sunday. Around 2.30 a.m., the police followed the gang to the Music Academy flyover on Cathedral Road.

Once the two vehicles reached the top of the flyover, the police blocked it at both ends and surrounded them at gun-point.

Syed Sarfraz Nawas, 36, of Senthilnagar, Padi, the gang leader, his brother-in-law Mohammed Shereen, 26, of Dhamothirapuram, Adyar, and K. Raja, 26, of Korattur, were pinned down.

Nawas, who had studied only up to Class II , was leading a luxurious life with the money he made from the stolen goods.

He confessed that the gang targeted shops that sold expensive watches, high-end mobiles, television sets and silver articles, said Mr. Santharam.

Nawas would use a crow bar to break open the shutter and loot all the materials in the shop. Before fleeing, the burglars would break the CCTV recorder and take it with them, the ACP said.

The stolen goods were sold at cheap rates either directly or through the grey markets. A few years ago, Nawas had his own shop at Arakkonam.

Police seized cars, TV sets, watches and silver articles worth ₹50 lakh from the gang.

Nawas has three murder and several theft cases against him and was detained under the Goondas Act.

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