Without a CCTV facility at the border gate, keeping track of vehicles is a challenge

Since 2015, 10 Boleros were reported stolen in Phuentsholing, with two reported stolen just this month.  Both are yet to be traced or recovered.

Stolen Boleros are usually not recovered. Six Boleros were stolen in 2015, two in 2016, and two this year. Most Boleros were stolen from the lower market area in the town. However, residents said more Boleros could have been stolen.

After his 2012 model Bolero was stolen earlier this month,

KB Gurung, a driver of a private company in Thimphu is yet to hear from the police. The Bolero did not belong to him and he is anxious about what his employer may require if the vehicle is not found.

“I had parked the vehicle near the old taxi parking area around 7pm,” he said. “When I returned an hour later, the vehicle was missing.”

Besides the Boleros, two Maruti vans and two Enfield motorbikes were also reported stolen between 2015 and 2016. However, one of the two vans was recovered, a police source in Phuentsholing confirmed.

The commanding officer with the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) in Phuentsholing, Choki Phuntsho said they alert the team at the border gate immediately after a case is reported. “We also inform Jaigaon police and SSB.”

On the recent theft of two Boleros, the officer said that police also inspected CCTV footage provided by their counterparts. However, the vehicles were not detected.

The Bolero is targeted because the vehicle’s key-lock combination is not “very complex”, a source, on condition of anonymity said. Its key is also found to have less combinations.

“The miscreants could be using a master key,” he said.

The seven-seat passenger Boleros have a lock method known as an immobiliser system, which is much more secure. However, the commercial Bolero vehicles that are common in the country do not have this system, making it easier for miscreants to access the vehicle.

As Phuentsholing shares an open border with the neighbouring town of Jaigaon, such occurrences are recorded more frequently. Once the vehicles are across the border, it is a challenge for the police to track the vehicles.

The gate in the Chinese Lane and the main gate are the only two that connect the two bordering towns. But the Chinese Lane gate does not have access to vehicles and the main gate is the only point for vehicular movement.

However, during the dry season, the Amochhu’s banks emerge and can be driven on. Sources say there are chances that the stolen Boleros are driven away using the embankments, which is located behind the current truck parking area.

Following the recent incident and as a preventive measure, the thromde and police have dug a trench along this area. Kuensel learnt that the Phuentsholing main gate does not have a CCTV system installed, without which police are unable to check vehicular movement. Their Jaigaon counterpart had provided their CCTV footage for the recent case as their camera also covers the Bhutan gate.

In 2015, CCTVs were installed in various places across the town on trial. Thromde officials said a private firm had installed the CCTVs for free so that the thromde and police could try out the system. However, the parties could not come to an agreement on the purchase of the cameras and the CCTVs were removed.

Today, the Phuentsholing thromde has started installing CCTVs to monitor solid waste management. Thirteen locations have been identified and in some places CCTVs have already been installed.

The Safe City project, an initiative of the RBP is also in the pipeline. While this project has already started in Thimphu, the contracts for the southern thromdes have just been floated.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing