September 20, 2016

ARMED CRIME ON WHEELS POSES CONTINUED THREAT ACROSS THE COUNTRY

“31/08/2016-The body of a bodaboda operator was found by the roadside in Webuye. The deceased was ferrying a customer when he was attacked and his motorcycle stolen.” *** “30/07/2016-A businessman […]

ARMED CRIME ON WHEELS POSES CONTINUED THREAT ACROSS THE COUNTRY

“31/08/2016-The body of a bodaboda operator was found by the roadside in Webuye. The deceased was ferrying a customer when he was attacked and his motorcycle stolen.”

***

“30/07/2016-A businessman in Subukia, Nakuru, was shot dead by armed criminals riding on a motorcycle. The deceased is said to have been followed by the four armed thugs to his home from work and attacked at the gate at around 8 pm.”

***

“14/06/2016-A man was shot dead during a robbery at mobile money shop in Mikindani, Changamwe. The four armed men made away with Ksh150,000. The deceased is reported to have been shot after raising alarm over the robbery.  The suspects escaped using motorcycles.”

***

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Crime involving armed gangs on motorcycles, while being a practice for years now, is a trend that has been on the rise again. In the past three months, this trend accounted for 13% of all armed robbery and theft incidents that we recorded in our database. Beyond armed robbery and theft, motorcycles have also been used to aid numerous rape and defilement cases in past weeks. Initially a mainstay for criminal gangs in Nairobi, media and crime reports now indicate that more counties across the country are struggling to contain this tactic.

In Mombasa for instance, armed juvenile gangs on motorcycles have been targeting mobile money agents, with a spate of such robberies noted in the area in June and July. Security agencies in Siaya have been grappling with gangs employing similar strategies to attack mobile money stalls as well as terrorize residents particularly in August.

Authorities in Athi River sub-county, Machakos, have since resorted to effecting a ban on bodaboda operations beyond 11 pm in a bid to curtail this rising trend. As per the administration, the curfew will not only reduce crime, but reduce the number of legitimate bodaboda operators falling victim to such gangs and control collusion between bodaboda operators and gangs as well. According to John Ogutu, Senior Operations Manager at Securex Agencies (K) LTD, such a ban, while well-intended, should not be used as a solitary mitigating measure.

“The allure for gangs to use motorbikes as getaway vehicles is apparent; as a fast, mobile and almost untraceable means of escape. We have reason to believe legitimate bodaboda operators are also victims of these gangs, as is illustrated by reports of such operators being accosted and their bikes stolen. Such an incident was noted in Ciranga, Tharaka Nithi, while in Nairobi the Police traced a notorious lone gunman to his hide-out in Huruma earlier this month and recovered a motorcycle he had been using to aid his escape from crime scenes.”

A further mitigating measure would be to increase the number of Police patrols on motorbikes as this would decrease the chances of thugs making clean get-aways and deter crime. Beyond this, Mr. Ogutu also believes that stricter control around the acquisition and hiring out of motorcycles would be a game-changer in curbing this form of crime.

“Motorbikes are easily affordable and are inexpensive to operate and maintain. The worry arises when one can hire a motorbike for a day for as little as Sh300. This often happens without any form of regulation whatsoever, and such bikes could then be used by gangs pretending to be honest bodaboda riders while scouting for potential victims or premises to target.”

Mr. Ogutu also called on residents of affected areas, especially in urban settlements, to be more vigilant and aware of crime trends in their localities as increased awareness can also lead to improved security.

“Members of the public should also be know what is happening around them and keep abreast of the latest crime trends affecting their regions. Heightened awareness and sensitization to these trends cultivates a safety-first culture which can contribute to reduced crime. One should, for instance, have one particular bodaboda that he/she trusts rather than pick the first rider that approaches you or the one that offers you the cheapest fares.”

“While some gangs on motorbikes purpose to target particular victims, most are opportunistic. Such thugs roam while looking for individuals they feel would be a good score in terms of valuables they can steal. Victims here are targeted for carrying laptop bags for instance, as was the case with a foreigner who was unfortunately shot as he resisted an attempt from such a gang on Riara Road in June.”

Mr. Ogutu also invited civilians to consider carrying dummy wallets, which would ideally contain a few expired bank cards and loose change.

“Owing to the daring and opportunistic nature of this form of crime, most incidents hardly last more than a couple of minutes. Thugs here prefer to hit and escape quickly. Some won’t even have the time to frisk a victim for valuables, but instead opt to demand one’s wallet, mobile phone and bag. One should thus make themselves less of a target-not carrying a bag unless necessary, avoiding walking alone beyond 10 pm, varying one’s routine if possible are some ways this can be achieved.”

Finally, he advised that victims confronted by such thugs would do well to comply with their demands as opposed to resistance.

“We need to understand that more often than not these criminals are looking for a quick score and escape, and would therefore view any resistance as provocation for violence. It would be advisable to surrender, but also be observant and take in as much information as possible during the robbery. Any details would be vital in assisting the Police with their investigations.”

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