One of the ways we’ve been keeping you safe this past year has been through our daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual security intelligence briefings. We collect data from media and police reports, in addition to our own confidential sources; crunch the numbers and inform you of the most prevalent form of crime in your locality and how to protect yourself.
In collecting our data this year, we came across five major crime trends across the country that made headlines as individuals with criminal intent continually devised new mechanisms to further their nefarious agendas.
- Terrorism Recruitment Cells Shift the Goalposts:
Many of us have always presumed terrorism to be a path mainly taken by male extremists. This year however, we noted a shift in their approach towards recruitment. On September 11th, three female assailants carried out an attack on the Central Police Station in Mombasa, walking up to the station and brandishing knives after they were denied entry into the police cells. One of the women then hurled a petrol bomb into the building before they were gunned down by officers. What made this particular attack so unique was that it was the first time that women were on the front-line of a terror attack.
Terrorism recruitment cells have over the past 12 months been targeting women, university students, and even children as they aim to further their extremist agenda. In August, a report by the Commission of University Education indicated that at least 44 students have joined Al-Shabaab, with 17 of these students being girls. Two months later, reports emerged of 67 suspected Al-Shabaab members being arrested in Bungoma, Western Kenya. This indicates a change from the traditional recruitment strongholds in Mombasa and Nairobi to other parts of the country.
As the government continues to clamp down on recruitment networks in mosques and residential estates in Kenya, recruitment agents have started taking the fight online. Online radicalism poses a rising threat especially to vulnerable and impressionable teenagers who are seen as easy prey for extremist sympathizers.
- Women as Conduits for Drug Supply in the Coast:
Drug abuse has long been touted as one of the major influencing factors behind criminal activity in the coast. In November however, it was revealed that drug kingpins in the area are now using women as conduits to supply narcotics to the youth across the county.
“It is so disturbing and astonishing that women are now selling drugs. Give us information of persons selling drugs in villagers, houses, markets, shops, and anywhere else they are selling the drugs. Don’t hide them…we are shielding a disease that will haunt and finish us. It is important to deal with drugs,” said Mombasa County Security Committee Chairman, Evans Achoki, while speaking during a public baraza in Likoni.
An investigation by the Daily Nation revealed that three elderly women were using children dressed in school uniforms to sell drugs to their peers in Mikindani. This has also been linked to the rise in juvenile criminal gangs in various parts of Mombasa as well.
- Juvenile Gangs in the Coast:
Wakali Wao, Wakali Kwanza, Kapenguria Six, Gaza, Young Thugs, and Chafu Gang; if you’re wondering where you’ve heard these names before, they are the names of juvenile criminal gangs operating from Likoni, Changamwe, Jomvu, Mikindani, Mtwapa, and other parts of Mombasa County today. There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of criminal gangs in the county, with police chiefs indicating that there may be up to 40 illegal juvenile groups today. These gangs are characterised by their youth, with members typically aged 12-18. They are known to wield crude weapons such as knives, iron bars, and machetes and have been involved in skirmishes with residents and local boda boda operators.
Parents are urged to closely monitor their children and watch out for tell-tale signs that their children are involved in criminal activity, including if they begin arriving home late without explanation. Parents might also find that their son or daughter has huge amounts of money or high-value items, and they can’t explain where they received it from. They may also arrive home with a string of unexplained injuries that may indicate physical confrontation.
- Armed Crime on Wheels:
Throughout the year and across the counties, there have been widespread reports of criminal activity involving the use of motorbikes. Criminals have either been using motorbikes as their getaway vehicles or attacking honest boda boda operators and robbing them of their motorbikes. The lack of regulation of the boda boda industry as well as the appeal behind using bikes to aid escape, given their speed and manoeuvrability through jam-packed city streets and narrow alleyways in slums, makes this a particularly difficult trend to control. Thirteen percent of criminal activity that we recorded between July and September involved the use of motorbikes.
Authorities in Athi River sub-county resorted to banning boda boda operations after 11 pm, but there’s more that you can do on a personal level to stay safe as well. You should identify one trusted boda boda rider to be your go-to guy every time, rather than choosing the rider who charges the cheapest fares. Some of the thugs on bikes are opportunistic burglars who target “appealing targets”, as they watch out for individuals carrying expensive jewellery or a laptop bag. You should therefore aim to make yourself less of a target for such criminals by avoiding carrying laptop bags unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Gangs Targeting Police Stations:
This trend particularly gained traction in the later months of the year when armed gunmen attacked Booker Police Post in Mumias, severely injuring a police officer and making away with seven G3 rifles and over 100 bullets in November. The firearms and ammunition were later recovered, but such incidents have contributed to the ease of access to firearms by criminal gangs all year round. Criminals have also been known to target licensed firearm holders for their guns. For instance, a Karen resident was waylaid by thugs as he drove into his home in March. The gang made off with his pistol as well as other household items.