Kenya: Muggings on the Rise - the City's Hotspots

Nairobians are no longer walking at ease within the city centre, courtesy of violent muggers.

The muggers are targeting valuables they can see, from jewellery to phones and carry-ons.

Victims of the muggings narrated their experiences to the Nation, exposing the tricks the muggers use, the frequency of attacks and the danger of loss of lives.

On Monday evening, Francis Osinde, the director of Sasa Doctor, escaped unhurt after he was confronted by five men armed with a pistol in the space between the Kenya National Archives and the Hotel Ambassadeur.

The gang robbed him of items valued at more than Sh137,000 -- his laptop, two mobile phones and a wallet -- after threatening to use the weapon on him.

The men then scattered in different directions, leaving him stranded. He reported the robbery to the Central Police Station under OB number 126/11/05/2021.

May 3, 2021

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Move! Move! Move! The man shouted as he continuously hit the bonnet of the vehicle. It was the usual Monday evening rush hour at quarter to 7pm. Traffic was as thick as the rain hitting the windscreen.

Joseph Mwangi was being ordered by a gang to drive at the Globe Cinema Roundabout, but there was nowhere to move in the gridlock. Another gang member started banging the rear of the car, and in seconds, the vehicle was surrounded. In the confusion, Mwangi reached for the central door lock, unlocking all the doors.

A man jumped in and started ransacking the car. Then traffic started moving and the motorists hooted at him. It took a while before he realised that the chaos around him was orchestrated. It is the modus operandi of criminals plying the Globe Cinema Roundabout overpass.

Not far from where this drama was taking place, a policeman was directing traffic at Khoja roundabout, oblivious of what was happening close to him. Less than a kilometre away, at the Central Police Station, life continued as normal, with the station commander probably content that plainclothes police officers who man the crime hotspots such as Khoja roundabout were doing their job of keeping Kenyans safe.

Frightening experience

But Mwangi felt so alone. Less than five minutes earlier, he had dropped a colleague at Ngara and he had planned to make a U-turn at the Globe Cinema roundabout, but missed the turnoff and found himself on the overpass, arguably one of the most dangerous stretches of road for private motorists in the city.

"It was frightening to be surrounded by all those men, some trying to remove the car's side mirror, while the other was inside my car. I was lucky I did not panic and cause multiple accidents. It was the most frightening experience," says Mwangi.

Criminals have mastered how to cause chaos and in the melee, steal valuables from motorists and pedestrians. If one resists, a knife or a gun will hasten the process.

Mwangi escaped without losing much because he had no valuables with him and the traffic started flowing.

Within seconds the gang of six men had moved to another motorist.

May 1

A day before Mwangi's experience, Makutano Junction actor Ainea Ajiambo alias Snake, a licensed gun owner, "accidentally" shot a guard and a bystander while fighting three gangsters who attempted to steal a gold chain he was wearing.

CCTV footage of the incident showed the actor chatting with a woman on the sidewalk on Moi Avenue, when one of the men grabbed his chain as the other two pushed the woman aside. He shoved the attackers, pulled out his gun and fired, and the men scampered away.

Police had to use teargas to disperse a mob that wanted to lynch the actor, accusing him of being trigger-happy. They whisked him to Central Police Station.

The actor explained that he was aiming at the gang that had attacked him when the bullets hit the guard and a bystander.

Although the cases seem to be more in the city centre, carjackings in residential areas continue unabated. Tales of residents being robbed on their doorsteps are now a common feature on social media and in reports posted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on its social media platforms.

Helpless and vulnerable

Criminals are now going for anything, even side mirrors are being stolen in traffic.

Cases happening a few metres from where police are busy chasing matatus at the expense of monitoring the security leave residents feeling helpless and vulnerable.

Since the Covid-19 lockdowns, more people have lost jobs, which has seen a corresponding increase in petty crimes and muggings in the city. Although the National Police Service has not released the 2020 crime report and trends, scary testimonies by victims show that crime is on the rise.

On April 29, this writer witnessed a middle-aged man snatching a necklace from a woman just after she alighted from a bus on Moi Avenue. The man tip-toed towards the woman and pulled her neckpiece from behind, leaving her in pain. Before she could realise what was happening, the thief was gone.

Yesterday, Inspector General of police Hillary Mutyambai said more security officers would be deployed at the National Archives and on Luthuli Avenue, River Road and other mugging hotspots within the CBD.

"We have regular security patrols around the city on a daily basis. However, I have noted this with concern and we will deploy more security forces around the area," the IG said on Twitter.

The National Police Service's website has, however, listed other muggings hotspots in Nairobi that you ought to be wary of.

These are City Cotton between Wilson Airport and South C, Near Oilibya Petrol Station in Mathare, Congo area of Kawangware and the Limuru road stretch between the town and Nakuru highway.

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