Monday, 27 April 2015

Removing shut down time for shops will make cities safer

Safety is important. 

There have been a lot of analysis on what makes cities safe or rather what can make cities safe. Increase in the number of police personnel, stricter punishments, better collection and use of data about criminals and criminal activities, economic progress have been some areas that have been tried as solutions and have been partially successful. 

There is no one way of making cities safer and hence a combination of different ideas is needed. India has a poor police to citizens ratio. The justice system is so backlogged right now that even those who get caught roam around free for years before any action, if any, is taken against them. There are multiple ways in which governments are trying to reduce crime. A lot of these are either heavily debated or involve a lot of privacy issues or are just too expensive. 

Wouldn't it be better to prevent crimes from happening apart from having an efficient consequence system? Citizens would prefer no thefts instead of all thieves getting caught and punished, wouldn't they?

There is one way, the effect of which has not been documented, which will help the economy, improve the culture of the city and help reduce crime. 

Do away with the law which forces shops/restaurants to shut down after a particular time. 

Almost every state has a Shops and Establishment Act. A list of states which have this Act can be found here. This Act gives State governments power to decide the opening and closing time for shops/restaurants in that state. 

If we take the example of Bombay Shops and Establishments Act, 1948 then we can see that it clearly specifies the exact time at which commercial shops, restaurants and theatres can open and shut. The Act also makes it very clear that the state government or the local government can appoint inspectors to make sure that the law is followed. 

It is interesting to note it is NOT the duty of the local police neither is it under their jurisdiction to shut down shops at night unless it is officially notified by the state government. Although it is very common to see a police van come to the shops late in the night asking the shop to shut down. 

How will changing this law make cities safer?

Kate Painter and David P. Farrington of Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge wrote a research paper titled 'The  Dudley Project'. It correlates the drop in crime rate with improved street lighting. Research shows how, all other variables being the same, an area which is well lit will have a low crime rate than an area which is not well lit. It also shows how an area's crime rate will reduce even when the only intervention introduced is proper street lighting. This happens because more people hang outside because of proper lighting and the presence of more people outside is a deterrent to criminals. 

Indian streets are not always well lit and even if they were, why would people want to hang outside late in the night if they have nothing to do? We need to give people an incentive to stay out late in the night. Shopping or eating out can be those incentives. 

Recently, Inspector General of Police in Gandhinagar, Gujarat gave the following statement in Times of India:

“I don't see it (closing the shops) as an action that can prevent crimes..........When we have a safe state's tag, we have to ensure safety . It wouldn't be attained by shutting the shops. More people on the street would actually work as deterrent." 

If shops and restaurants remain open late in the night, more people will move around the city at night and in turn act as deterrents to crime. Police patrolling works on the same principle. If police cars are moving around an area at night or even stationed at regular intervals around the city then they act as a deterrent to criminals. 

It also helps traffic congestions because when you increase the possible working hours of an establishment, then the traffic will be spread out over a longer period of time and so average traffic will reduce. People who can go late, will go late and hence peak hour traffic will reduce. There are also people who believes that keeping bars open all throughout the night actually reduce the instances of drunk driving and drunken behaviour because 'last call' generally makes people binge drink rather rather than their usual responsible drinking and in turn leads to more accidents/incidents.

It also gives businesses freedom to choose their timings and in turn decide whether staying open till late in the night or even all night is a profitable option. There have also been allegations of "police's misbehaviour while shutting the shops and favouritism for a few who are allowed to keep the shops open till late for more business."  

So if shops staying open till late in the night can help the economy, reduce the possibility of police misbehaviour and make the cities slightly more safe, why aren't we allowing it? 


  1. Fu**ing idiot. Just shut up your crappy mouth.

    1. I wrote this with my hands. Shutting my mouth will not do anything.

  2. Very interesting point of view must say. So nice that you care about security. Have you ever thought that using electronic data room may also reduce the amount of crimes?

    1. I don't really know a lot about electronic data rooms.

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