Police officers in Nakuru and Nyeri counties have seized a vehicle they believe was stolen from Nyeri and arrested four suspects in connection to a car theft syndicate in the Central region.
The Toyota Premio, registration KBJ 417F, was found at Pipeline along Nakuru-Nairobi highway.
Nakuru East Sub-County Police Commander Ellena Wairimu said they were alerted on Saturday about a vehicle stolen from King’ong’o in Nyeri.
The owner parked it at Mt Kenya Bottlers but did not find it when he returned.
"Police swung into action following a tip-off," Ms Wairimu said, adding the thieves hot-wired the vehicle, a technique that has become common in the region.
Ms Wairimu identified three of the suspects as Stephen Maina, Joseph Kamau and Peter Mwangi aged 43, 42 and 41 respectively.
"They were taken to Nakuru Central Police Station and will be transferred to Nyeri for further investigations and arraignment," she said.
The fourth suspect was arrested later.
The vehicle was also take to that police station.
The police boss said they were pursuing other suspects. She asked car owners to install security systems that help locate vehicles in case of theft.
Nyeri Central Sub County Police Commander Paul Kuria told the Nation that the suspects were also being questioned about contraband liquor found in the stolen car.
Police want to know the origin of the alcohol and the hundreds of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) stamps they found in a pick-up truck that the suspects had.
“We are working with relevant agencies to establish the facts. That is all we can say for now,” the police boss said.
This comes about a week after a key suspect in the car theft business was arrested while attempting to steal a car at a Catholic Church in Nyeri Town.
The suspect said he tried to steal the Toyota Sienta the vehicle using master keys, an offence he was previously charged with but acquitted.
Police have been working to bust the ring for close to a year now following the increasing loss of vehicles from parking lots in major towns, - they have made dozens of arrests and recovered at least 10 vehicles.
“Victims say they parked their cars but found them gone when they returned shortly after. The thefts are quite strange,” Mr Kuria said.
Detectives are considering random checks to curb the crime.
The seemingly well organised and connected syndicate has operations in parts including Kerugoya in Kirinyaga County, Nyeri Town, Murang’a and Nyahururu towns as well as Nairobi.
“It is a big cartel and Central is their biggest target right now. We have made some significant progress. We will uncover more in the coming days,” Mr Kuria said.
At least five people have been charged in court so far.
In Nyeri, where the trend is not new, at least 10 vehicles have reportedly been stolen under unclear circumstances in the last three months.
The vehicles are said to disappear from parking lots around town, right under their owners' noses.
In most cases, there are no reports of use of force and reports indicated that the alleged thieves drove away the cars, which owners reported they had left locked.
At some point, police suspected that car owners who wanted insurance payments were fabricating reports.
Later, however, investigations revealed that the thieves were using duplicate master keys and techniques such as hot-wiring to steal the vehicles.
It also emerged that some of the vehicles are stripped for parts.
In addition, forensic experts uncovered a trick used in changing chassis numbers, where the original number is smelted off and a new one imprinted onto the frame of the car.
At the Nyeri Central Police station is a vehicle whose original model detectives are yet to decipher.
The vehicle was being sold as a Mitsubishi but analysis show that it had the body of a Ford and the engine of a Toyota.
“This tells you that so many cars have been stolen and disassembled, then the parts fitted onto other vehicles. It is hard to tell how many people have lost their cars but they are obviously very many,” Mr Kuria said.
Detectives suspect that members of the cartel has been colluding with some officials of the KRA, the National Transport and Safety Authority and Kenya Prisons, where registration plates are reportedly made.
The officials are said to facilitate acquisition of log books and validation of number plate registration for stolen vehicles.