Crime syndicates taint image of bubbly Ruiru

Monday May 6 2019

A picture of Family Bank's Ruiru branch where

A picture of Family Bank's Ruiru branch where unknown people broke in on July 14 or 15, 2018, and stole over Sh20m. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC WAINAINA
By ERIC WAINAINA
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Located three kilometres off Nairobi City's boundary, Ruiru is strategically positioned not only as dormitory for the capital, where real estate developers and individuals are scrambling for land to put up homes, but also a hub for industries and learning institutions.
The area that lies in Kiambu County has seen a rapid rise in its population over the years, as well as mushrooming of housing projects, factories and colleges.
The cosmopolitan area is the second most populated constituency in the country with at least 600,000 people after Starehe in Nairobi, and according to data from the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC), the area has 160,000 registered voters.
In fact, the area MP, Mr Ng'ang'a King'ara, had the highest votes among all lawmakers nationally in the 2017 General Election with 108,765 votes.

LEARNING INSTITUTIONS
Ruiru has an estimated 50 industries with about 80,000 workers while Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Zetech University-Ruiru campus, Kenyatta University, Nairobi Institute of Business Studies and other institutions of learning have about 75,000 students.

Further, with the Thika superhighway and Eastern By-pass which link Nairobi and other parts of eastern, north eastern, central Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa Roads via Ruiru, at least an estimated one million people pass through the area daily.
But behind the glamorous image created by mushrooming gated communities and thriving businesses, is a monster that has been created by criminals who have turned the area into their den, at least going by the number and nature of criminal activities reported in the area.
Ruiru has become a paradise for murderers, drugs and human traffickers, fraudsters and bank robbers, smugglers of counterfeit goods, tax evaders and criminals who have been working in cahoots with unscrupulous officials in the Lands ministry to defraud innocent Kenyans through dubious deals.

EASY ACCESS
Local leaders, police and security experts believe the high population, accessibility - due to its location along the highway and bypasses - proximity to the airport, high number of learning institutions and inadequate security, are what is inviting criminals to the area.
If criminals, who have local and international networks due to the accessibility to the airports, are not perpetrating their heinous acts in the area, they have turned the area into a transit or storage and dumping site.
For instance, on February 27, detectives from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit raided a posh residential house in Gatongora and seized Sh32 billion suspected fake local and foreign currency which had been stacked in at least 20 metallic boxes.

The fake cash was stashed in at least 20 boxes

The fake cash was stashed in at least 20 boxes that were found in the Ruiru house. PHOTO | MARY WAMBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

During the bust, of what police believe is part of a money laundering syndicate which they have been working hard to crack open, three suspects — a couple and their female business associate — were arrested and later charged.
Three days earlier, officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) shut down Platinum Distillers Limited, an alcoholic drinks manufacturer in the area and arrested four people over an alleged plot to evade payment of up to Sh14 million in taxes.

Platinum Distillers alcohol

Some of the bottled alcohol produced by Platinum Distillers Limited, a factory based in Ruiru, as pictured during a KRA sting operation on February 24, 2019. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dr Edward Karanja, KRA's head of tax investigations, told reporters that Platinum had concealed its imported goods as raw materials for making alcohol in order to pay less in taxes.
The two incidents which could appear as ordinary, added to the growing list of criminal activities in the area and cemented the fear that Ruiru and the neighbouring Juja are now a destination for criminals.
On March 25, Transnational Organised Crime detectives raided a home in Gwa-Kairu in Ruiru and thwarted an attempt to smuggle 25 Burundian women aged between 24 and 33 years to Asian countries and arrested three suspected human traffickers.
Early this year businesswoman Mary Kamangara's killers used Ruiru as a transit to Juja where they dumped her body at Mugutha near Courtesy Beach before dumping bloody clothing in a thicket that is between Ruiru and Kiambu.

Mary Wambui Kamangara

The late Mary Wambui Kamangara. She wa murdered in January, 2019, and her body found dumped in a thicket in Ruiru. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

On August 21, 2018, police impounded over Sh20 million worth equipment belonging to Kenya Power at Membley that were stolen from an electricity installation site in Longonot while a month before, Family Bank Ruiru branch lost Sh20.8 million after thugs accessed the strongroom and ATM machine.
But why has the area become a haven for criminals?
Despite the high population and a hive of activities, the constituency relies mainly on Ruiru and Kimbo police stations and a few police posts with about 152 officers, some of whom are deployed to guard banks and provide escort for money in transit, while most people who live in the area are strangers.
The poor ratio of police to the public, which has been made worse by the highway, is said to be the main reason the area has become a haven for criminals.
“With the high number of people compared to the number of the police officers whom we have, criminals will want to operate from Ruiru because it’s not easy to get caught, plus the area is growing and being a cosmopolitan region, people don’t know each other and therefore a criminal can live in an estate for months without being noticed,” Mr King’ara said.
For instance, Githurai and its environs — which have a population of about 300,000 and which record high crime rates, both in the estates and highway — there is no police station, making it a gangsters’ paradise.
Mr Kiyo Ng’anga, a security exert, said criminals prefer densely populated areas because of the high number of people, most of whom are jobless and provide ready and cheap labour for criminal activities such as robberies or fraud.

STUDENT POPULATION
Further, according to Mr Kiyo, the area has a high number of students who are willing to do anything to make an extra coin and this raises the cases of crime.
“Juja and Ruiru have very many students due to the universities and colleges in the areas and with the peer pressure among the students, they will do anything to make money including engaging in crime and also being hired to perpetrate mostly robberies and fraud,” Mr Kiyo said.
The solution, according to Mr King’ara, would be to increase the number of police stations and ensure the officers are well facilitated, saying chances of a crime being busted in Ruiru compared to an area which average security personnel are very minimal.
“Unless that is done, Ruiru will continue to be a gangsters’ paradise because every criminal wants to operate in an area where it’s not east to be caught,” the MP said, adding that when a court was opened a few weeks ago, data showed that 3,000 criminal cases were ready for litigation.

PETITIONED
Mr Kin’gara said that they have already identified land in Githurai, Mwihoko and Gatong’ora areas where police stations can be put up, adding that he had already petitioned the police service and also reached out to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to have the plans executed.
Ruiru OCPD James Ng'etich agrees that the high population and lack of adequate security personnel have seen the vast area, whose zones such as Kahawa Wendani, Kamakis, Kahawa Sukari and Ruiru, operate 24 hours become attractive to criminals.
Mr Ng’etich said that the area is developing and people are moving in and not all neighbours know each other, creating a room for criminals to live in the estates unnoticed, while indisciplined university students, who live in hostels in the area, are fuelling crime as the look for easy money.