For many residents of Juja town in Kiambu County, a threat to students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) is a threat to their businesses.
The vibrancy of the small dusty town has been mostly maintained by the 30,000 students, most of whom live off campus as the university’s hostels can only host 2,700 of them.
Despite little space for expansion, Juja town has continued to grow with M-Pesa and printing shops, butcheries, supermarkets and hotels cropping up daily.
The booming business is now under threat.
Residents are concerned that cases of students being mugged are getting out of hand.
When Ms Tabitha Muthoni Mwangi, a student, was stabbed last month, locals chased one of the suspected attackers and killed him. The action was meant to send a warning to muggers.
But that did not stop the criminals from stabbing Mr Kelvin Mugendi, another student, this month. Mr Mugendi survived, but not so Ms Mwangi, who died while being taken to hospital.
Juja residents and leaders have demanded answers to the insecurity conundrum.
Area Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Ali Samatar says the situation is manageable.
“It is not a complex criminal gang, but idle young men,” he says.
The police boss added that the town should have security cameras if the war on crime is to be won.
He told students not to expose themselves to attacks.
Mr Samatar warned students against talking on phone while walking in poorly lit areas.
“Some attackers are students. We have dealt with cases of students stabbing one another,” he said.
Last Saturday, a fourth year student stabbed his girlfriend in the stomach. The victim is being treated at Thika Level Five Hospital while the assailant is still at large.
Mr Moses Njogu, a resident, blames the rise in crime on unemployment. Thousands graduate every year but only a handful get jobs, he says.
“Some opt to start businesses around Juja but many of these fail. Even the suspects behind the KCB heist were graduates,” he said.
Residents and the university fraternity have asked security agents to address crime in Juja.
Some people have expressed fear of the university losing a big number of foreign students if the problem is not addressed.
A majority of these students are based at the Pan African University’s Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation.
More than 300 are from 36 African countries and they are enrolled in masters and doctorate programmes.
During the September 2018 admissions, Jkuat attracted 4,866 government-sponsored students.
“In line with government policy that delinks admissions from bed capacity, most of our students live outside the university,” Dr Nindzano Ngonyo, chief corporate communications officer at Jkuat, told the Nation.
“This has led to a symbiotic relationship. Investors have built hostels where our students can put up in the course of their studies.”
Top university officials say if insecurity in Juja is not addressed, the situation could affect learning.
“The management has noted with concern the deteriorating security situation in Juja where most of our students reside. In the recent past, there have been reports of gangs harassing and even violently attacking the public. Some of our students have lost their lives,” a statement by the university management read.
Jomo Kenyatta University Students Association president Clinton Osoro blames the situation on lack of proper coordination between authorities and the university.
“Proper mechanisms need to be put in place to curb these attacks and unnecessary deaths and injuries,” Mr Osoro said.