Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Matatu owners install CCTV cameras to check carjacking

Some matatus owners have installed security cameras inside their vehicles to monitor passenger behaviour in a bid to stem carjacking incidents May 8, 2013. FILE

Some matatus owners have installed security cameras inside their vehicles to monitor passenger behaviour in a bid to stem carjacking incidents May 8, 2013. FILE 

By AGGREY MUTAMBO amutambo@ke.nationmedia.com

Some matatus owners have installed security cameras inside their vehicles to monitor passenger behaviour in a bid to stem carjacking incidents.

For instance, matatus plying routes on the Thika Superhighway have installed the cameras with drivers and conductors saying the move will help police arrest criminals.

Samuel Ngere has been a matatu driver in Nairobi since 2004. For almost a decade, he has been hijacked three times at gun point. Some of his colleagues were not so lucky.

"Just last week, a colleague was killed after the thugs noticed he recognised them. They had robbed the passengers of their belongings before they killed him,” he recounts.

“We have seen many vehicles stolen on this road and some of our colleagues have also been killed by thugs who took hostage of the vehicles they were driving.”

But he is now driving a bus fitted with a camera to check monitor passenger movement.

“This camera was put in here because of increased cases of hijacking. The owner of this vehicle, though not a victim himself, thought it necessary to install them," said Mr Ngere.

The 54-seater bus has a music system and TV screens and no one bothers to frisk passengers.

Accomplices

These would be perfect conditions to plot a raid, only this time the thugs will be identified.

In a city where a week hardly passes without incidents of carjacking, matatu drivers have often been suspected to be accomplices.

Now, the drivers and conductors want to shed that perception.

“Beside the cameras, we now only allow people working with us to sit in front,” says Ken Karanja, a driver whose bus has been fitted with a camera.

“This is because robbers often start by threatening the driver before forcing him into a different direction. So, front seats will be out of bounds.”

This may not be a sufficient measure especially when the gadgets can be dismantled by the criminals, but the drivers are hopeful carjackings will reduce.

Last week, at a meeting of transport stakeholders, it was agreed that frisking, checking of luggage and cameras should be considered in the near future if crime has to go down.

“Cameras may help because the idea is to identify those bent on wayward ambitions. But the cost may be prohibitive especially to 14-seater matatus,” argued Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua.

One small CCTV camera costs about Sh10, 000 but this does not include the cabling, decoding machine and installation costs.

Whether this would be adopted by the industry remains to be seen, but at the moment; it is down to individual matatu owners and operators.

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