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  • Posted by: Lloyd Gitonga

David:This happened to me in Upper Hill in 2010.”

Farah:I fell for this scam six years ago along Ngong Road near Kenyatta National Hospital.”

Sarah:This happened to me one month ago along Mpaka Road in Westlands.”

Maurice:Yeah, true! These men are very common along Mombasa Road especially in these 14-seater matatus, they can even shout at a non-existent accident to draw peoples’ attention before robbing you.”

George:Bro ebu tafadhali niokotee memory card yangu imeanguka hapo chini ya kiti yako. (I have dropped my memory card under your seat, could you please help me pick it up?) That’s how I lost my smart phone at Roysambu stage.”

We have been collecting your views, intelligence and experiences with pickpockets who generally operate within public transport vehicles in and around the capital city through the use of the seatbelt scam. Never heard of this scam before? A group of four to six gentlemen board a matatu and create chaos and confusion by claiming that the Police are checking whether passengers are wearing their seatbelts. The men then take advantage of the ensuing confusion to pickpocket and quickly alight the vehicle before the victim realises what just transpired. In sharing this story, we came to learn of other tricks and scams that pickpockets have used to rob unsuspecting citizens over the years, with some tricks having been in use from as early as 2010. Here are some of the most informative experiences as shared by you:

Cornelius:I boarded a matatu at Roysambu intending to alight at Allsops. When the matatu got to Garden City Mall, two elderly men boarded saying they were headed to town. As the conductor started collecting fare, one of the men seated behind me dropped a coin and I selflessly bent down to pick it for him. That is when I must have lost my phone because when I alighted at Allsops I could not find my phone. I ran back to the matatu but the two men had alighted and left the scene even though they had said they were headed to town. I really regret helping them because that cost me my phone.”

David:Hi. I also witnessed a similar incident in the city along Tom Mboya Street. I boarded a city mini bus from Kikuyu to the city centre and on arriving at a supermarket next to the fire station, some passengers wanted to alight. They headed for the door of the bus, but a group of young men entered the bus pushing the passengers back. These men were shouting ‘Kanjo, Kanjo’ (county council officers). I remained glued to my seat as I watched the events unfold. I noted some of these guys went straight to the back of the matatu while a number of them blocked the aisle and begun roughing up the passengers. It all dawned on me that these people were acting this way so that they can have an easy time pickpocketing unsuspecting passengers. They indeed ransacked a good number of passengers without them knowing what was going on. When I rose to alight at Odeon, one guy approached me assuming that I was not aware of what was happening. I stopped him and asked him what he wanted; instead of answering me he muttered some inaudible insults and let me alight.

Kassim:Look out for people who board matatus with large envelopes and walk in groups of two or more. They place the envelope between both your legs, and take advantage of the cover to pickpocket you especially as the vehicle goes over bumpy patches or negotiates sharp turns. One then passes your valuables to the accomplice to make it harder to trace.”

Some of the experiences that you shared with us alluded to the collusion of criminals with matatu crews as well as bodaboda operators who serve as a quick and convenient means of escape from the scene of a crime:

Benedict:I boarded a matatu at Green house Adams for Kawangware. The conductor asked for 20 shillings as fare, I passed over a hundred-shilling note and waited for my balance. Whenever I asked for my change he would tell me to be patient as he looks for coins. On reaching the stage everyone alighted and I was left still asking for my change. All of a sudden he started shouting, calling me a drunk and saying: ‘Kujeni muone mwizi anataka kuninyanganya pesa za gari!’ (Come, look at this thief who wants to steal my earnings for the day) All the touts at the stage gathered around me hoping to make a kill. I quickly turned to the driver and tried to reason things out with him. He did his best to calm the crowd and we agreed that I pay another 20 shillings so that I walk away unharmed.”

Victor:I’ve had a scenario where someone seated next to me gave a Ksh. 1,000 note. The conductor returned the note to her alleging that he could not get change and asked for ‘pesa ndogo’ (money of lower denomination) which she didn’t have. They argued for a while before she noticed that she had been handed a fake note. Luckily for her she had her ATM withdrawal receipt and the conductor could not explain how an ATM machine could dispense fake notes. This happened aboard a matatu from Kawangware to town.”

Paul*:I know there’s a notorious group of 6 young and middle-aged men who they carry bags and wear jackets regardless of the weather. They also give free memory cards to bodaboda riders because they use them to escape.”

Some of you also shared very helpful tips on how to steer clear of such pickpockets:

Brian:But people should always be extra careful when in public vehicles and avoid unnecessarily showing their smart phones in the name of chatting and playing games which has now become a hobby; not knowing the passenger next to you could be a pickpocket.”

Or, as Jacqueline points out on a lighter note:

Jacqueline: “I was seated with one and they tried the belt trick; when it didn’t work he asked what time it was and I proudly removed my mulika mwizi from my pocket…”

We invite you to keep sharing these stories with us through our Social Media platforms or via e-mail: “info@securex.co.ke”

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