This weekend we can hear the Kenyan working class heave a collective sigh of relief because, three months after New Year’s, January is finally behind us.
It’s around that time when surviving till your next paycheck justifies you calling a national press conference and launching a book on how to weather the storm. Some might consider becoming motivational speakers even, owing to the overwhelming sense of achievement that surviving the phenomenon that is #Njaanuary brings with it.
The financial depression that hits everyone’s pockets after the festive season has even been cited as one of the reasons behind a recent surge in crime in Nairobi.
“Every January of every year, we have a challenge because you realize that you just come from December, where people over indulged, especially the youth, so in the month of January they tend to be engaged in criminal activities.” (Japheth Koome, Nairobi County Police Commander)
With the month finally behind us, we can take a look back (not at your economic struggles) but on the crime trends that we noted countrywide.
- The Return of #Nairobbery:
The now infamous slang made its way back into our vocabulary after a series of muggings were noted in the nation’s capital. It all begun on January 9th, when CCTV footage of a man being mugged openly along a particularly busy Kimathi Street at around 6:40 pm sparked national debate.
Several reports would then follow suit, with ladies in particular said to be losing not just what you would expect (mobile phones and handbags) but even earrings and wigs. Someone even lost their mahindi choma along Juja Road.
Apparently, it's not just phones they target guys. Stay woke! https://t.co/Lk0R4p2zRE
— Securex LTD (@SecurexEA) January 10, 2018
An intense security operation would then lead to the gunning down of six suspects within the C.B.D. Over 100 suspected muggers were also arrested in the weeks following the multiple reports of mugging in the capital, with security agencies looking to reassure the public of their safety.
- Crime Targeting Individuals Leaving Banks:
We also noted several reports regarding an organized gang that was reportedly targeting individuals seen leaving banks, ATMs and other financial institutions. Their mode of operation was centred on surveillance to identify a potential victim, with a couple of thugs stationed inside banking halls to keep an eye on individuals seen transacting large sums of money. These thugs would then communicate with their counterparts on the outside who would trail their mark and attack in isolated streets or even drive them away before dumping them on the outskirts of the city.
This was the case with a man who was waylaid on 29th January as he walked to his car after withdrawing Ksh100,000 and was later dumped in Ngong Forest sans the money and his firearm which was loaded with 14 bullets.
Local authorities reportedly set up a task force to deal with this particular crime within Nairobi, yet this same trend would also replicate itself elsewhere. Take this scenario in Meru for instance, where an armed gang of four trailed a woman who had withdrawn Ksh700,000 from a bank before jumping into a taxi. The four would follow her in a silver Toyota Fielder before blocking her off and making away with the money. Fortunately, they were intercepted at a police roadblock in Timau and taken into custody.
- Armed Crime on Wheels:
The use of motorbikes to aid crime has been a particular favourite of criminal gangs across the country. Here in Nairobi, Karen residents recently expressed concern over an armed gang that has been using motorbikes to attack and rob pedestrians in the area. The gang, armed with knives and guns, was reportedly behind five attacks in two weeks.
Elsewhere, in Meru Town, security organs announced a crackdown on motorbikes without registration plates and those with illegible number plates. Such bikes were said to be used by gangs that were particularly targeting women, snatching handbags, mobile phones and other valuables.
Similar reports were noted in Thika Town, where gangs on wheels were operating during the evening rush hour traffic to snatch valuables from pedestrians and passengers in matatus while in heavy traffic.
- Domestic Violence:
Domestic violence and crime related to domestic feuds were one of the most common trends noted across the country in December, and last month was no different. Crime under this category ranges from murder and rape to defilement, suicide and arson.
In Kieni, Nyeri County, a man doused himself, his wife and his two-month old baby in petrol before setting them ablaze while inside their home. Here in the capital, a former M.C.A was taken into custody after he was suspected of sanctioning the kidnap, rape and murder of his 24-year old wife last week. His wife was reportedly gang-raped before being forced to swallow acid.
Domestic crime involving land disputes has also been cause for concern among security agencies in Nyandarua, after it emerged that several individuals were colluding with unscrupulous thugs to sell family land without consulting other family members first.
- Con Artists:
This past month, we have noted several different scams that con artists have used to dupe unsuspecting citizens of their hard-earned cash. From mobile money scams in Narok West, where thugs were calling victims posing as banking officials to obtain their credentials to wipe their accounts, to a gang of conwomen that have been preying on learners by posing as education officials offering grants and scholarships.
Most recently, thugs in Chuka reportedly set up a Facebook account under the name of the Chuka University Vice Chancellor to advertise jobs within the institution in exchange for “a small fee.” Cons using social media to dupe job-seekers in the past have also set up accounts purportedly belonging to popular figures such as Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and other prominent media personalities.