As I went through the security checkpoint, I saw the private guards struggling to close the gates as a Toyota Prado attempted to escape the chase of other security guards.
Miraculously, the driver of the Prado managed to go past me without crashing into me. After I regained my breath, I asked the askaris why they wanted to close-in an exiting car at almost the cost of our lives.
It is then that one askari mentioned that the fleeing occupants of the Prado had attempted to steal a laptop from one of the parked cars.
The askaris said the thugs had parked their car close to the one they had intended to break into. They seemed to have a gadget which indicated to them that there was a computer in the car. The askaris were suspicious because many shoppers who left their laptops in their cars as they went shopping had lost them.
When the security guards decided to move closer to their car, the thug who was attempting to pick the lock of the parked car suddenly jumped into the back seat of the Prado where his three colleagues were seated and immediately sped off. That is when the coin dropped. So, they communicated to the gatekeepers to close the gate but it was a bit too late. The thugs escaped.
When I was a student in Utrecht, Netherlands, I got a rude shock when my fellow students made a monkey of me because upon arriving, I bought a brand new bicycle to ease my movement to school. My bicycle which I had bought at €200 was stolen after three days from the central bus terminal where I had gone to receive a friend. I had chained it, but this didn't stop an expert thief from picking the lock and carrying the bicycle away.
It was after this incident that the students informed me that in Netherlands, people don't buy new bicycles. So, they took me to a junk market where I was able to buy one at €7, which was also stolen after a few weeks! Apparently the thieves stole these bicycles and exchanged for others from other cities. So, it was very difficult to trace one's bicycle.
I am tempted to believe that stealing computers from cars has become a practice accepted both by the ready buyers and the police.
An awful number of people have suffered the theft of their laptops. The question is who buys these devices? If there was no ready market, like there is for stolen car parts in Kisekka market, would we be suffering from this social malady?
My friend, on his way to Entebbe airport en-route to Europe where he was going to defend his PhD thesis, stopped by a supermarket to pick some pancakes for his friends. Both the driver and my friend left the car for less than 10 minutes. When they returned, they found their car had been vandalised and the computer bag missing. The laptop aside, the bag had his ticket and passport.
He dashed to the nearest police station to report the matter. As he was writing the statement, the officer in charge of the station got interested in the matter and asked to be told the exact spot of the crime. With a 'that's easy' calm on his face, the officer asked my friend to abandon the statement and instead pay Shs 500,000. He was told that in less than four hours he would have all his stolen property.
He paid at 1pm and by 5pm he had got a call from the police officer to report to the station to pick his property! Everything was recovered, including the external hard drive where the thieves had transferred the data from the laptop. When he inquired whether the thieves had been arrested, he was asked: "what do you want; haven't you recovered your property?" He just hummed and walked away.
About six months ago another friend suffered a similar fate on Kampala road. He reported the matter to Central Police Station. All the police officer needed was the place where the device was stolen. When he was taken there, the officer murmured that he suspected the laptop was with a certain suspect in Kasubi because that thug usually operated from here. My friend was asked to pay Shs 800,000. He paid and after a day the bag with all its contents was recovered.
It's a big relief to recover your property, but it disturbs to learn that the police seem to be conniving with these thieves. For what explains that they are never arrested. And whenever the matter is reported to the police, they are able to tell which gang has the property. If this is not connivance, then what is it?
The author is the Business Development Director, The Observer Media Ltd.