MUMBAI - Fed up with daily sexual harassment of women on their beat, a team of female constables in India have taken to incognito motorbike patrols to banish loitering men from public places.
Jyotipriya Singh, additional superintendent of police in the western city of Kolhapur, led the initiative with her deputy last week, scouring the streets and targeting youths hanging around for no reason, especially on college campuses.
"We took a drive and checked various public places and we went in civilian dress so we could see who was loitering around," Singh told AFP. "Women were getting lewd remarks."
Video footage on local news websites shows young men running away from the female plainclothes police and their male colleagues, who chase and slap the miscreants in return.
Singh said they took action against 88 males -- either by giving warnings to them or their parents, or alerting other local police stations.
"The people are so happy about the drive, as they are daily getting harassment from these bystanders," Singh said.
Sex crimes in India have been in the spotlight since the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in December sparked nationwide anger, which was reignited last week with another gang-rape of a young woman in Mumbai.
Earlier this year, India passed a tougher law against rape, but Singh strongly believes that preventative action against sexual harassment is key.
She has called on police stations in the city in Maharashtra state to raise awareness, hold workshops and encourage women to come forward about harassment.
The idea of the patrol, she said, was to check these initiatives are working, but she remained tight-lipped about the timing of future crackdowns, saying that a "surprise element" is important to be effective.
"If we can prevent molestation with this drive, I think we can prevent a future rape," she said.
"If someone passes and remarks on you, you should definitely fight back. Parents should teach their children to complain."