Daring daylight robbers who include the notorious 40 Brothers gang have intensified their activities in Nairobi’s city centre, triggering questions on the effectiveness of police patrols and CCTV cameras.
The criminals, who prowl the concrete jungle in packs like wild animals, appear to have been emboldened enough to relocate to streets in the city centre that were previously considered safe, according to police sources. They usually target people leaving ATMs, forex bureaux and M-Pesa shops — and even pedestrians going about their businesses.
Once they zero in on a target, the gangs, that are made up of 10 or more people who walk in smaller groups, will converge and surround the victim – leaving no room for escape.
They will then take whatever their victim is carrying before frisking the pockets to take more valuables. In many instances, they leave their victims’ clothes in tatters. It is a crime that, in most instances, takes about 30 seconds, not even giving onlookers time to react. The criminals then split into smaller groups and walk away from the scene.
The leader of one criminal gang – which our sources identify as the 40 Brothers – is said to bizarrely insist that those who take part in the crime must leave with a piece of torn cloth from each victim as proof that they deserve a share of the loot at the end of the day.
“These ‘boys’ had been dealt with many years ago. I don’t understand why they have been allowed to return and terrorise wananchi,” said our source, who is an officer at Central Police Station.
On Friday, a distressed caller alerted the Nation that a woman had been surrounded by at least 20 people on Standard Street near CBA at 7.20 and robbed of everything she was carrying. Our reporter found the shocked woman still screaming five minutes after the crime. She declined to talk to us.
This comes just days after a leaked CCTV footage captured at 6.40 pm on January 9 went viral on social media, showing a man being attacked outside a bank along Kimathi Street by a gang which surrounded him and threw him to the ground after tearing his clothes. Surprisingly, the other pedestrians who were around and witnessed the mugging did not help him.
Nairobi County Police Commander Japhet Koome said yesterday that the incident was under investigation at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, where the video is being scrutinised.
“We have mobilised a team of both uniformed and plain clothes police officers in the city centre to crack down on this gang. Their activities had been suppressed but since they have devised new ways of robbing people, we have also come up with strategies to counter them,” Mr Koome said.
But not even police officers have been spared by the criminals, who do not usually have guns but are known to carry knives. Just last month, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police Francis Njeru was attacked by a gang as he walked to his office in the city centre. The senior officer lost Sh400,000 that he had withdrawn from a bank.
In another trend, the criminals also target people walking between stationary buses. In one recent case, a resident, Mr Patrick Owino, reported that two people attacked him from behind as he was walking between vehicles on Moi Avenue.
“They started by taking my laptop bag from my shoulders and then my wallet and my phone. I tried seeking help from another man who was walking between the vehicles in the opposite direction, only for me to realise that they were together,” he said, adding that he was also injured.
Apart from this, another gang using motorcycles has been snatching handbags and mobile phones from pedestrians in the city centre.
In one incident, Ms Lydia Mchomba says she was crossing Moi Avenue near Ebrahim’s Supermarket when, suddenly, a motorcycle slowed down near her and the pillion passenger snatched her bag and spectacles.
“It happened so fast. I did not even suspect they were thieves,” she said.
A shaken Ms Mchomba said she did not take the motorcycle’s registration number, more so, because her spectacles were grabbed.
“I felt hopeless and bitter because people were around, but none of them helped me, despite my loud screams,” she said of the Monday 11 am incident.
Although Mr Koome declined to reveal the strategies to counter the criminals, he indicated to the Nation that the team formed for the operation was experienced.
Mr Koome encouraged victims of such robberies to report them to the police, saying that some of the robbers have been arrested as a result.
Apart from that, it helps security officials to study the trends and hotspots which, in turn, helps police in their crackdown. Most victims opt not to report, believing it will only add to their distress, according to multiple interviews with our police sources.
There are also indications that the new head of DCI George Kinoti has formed a team of detectives, mostly drawn from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit and Flying Squad, to crack down on conmen and organised criminal gangs. Mr Kinoti and Nairobi DCI chief Nicholas Kamwende have held three meetings with the new team to come up with plans to counter the crime wave. A police officer deployed to the unit said it is also exploring the possibility of collusion between staff of financial institutions and the criminals, a link that has been established in some past cases.
“We are also targeting conmen who park vehicles in the streets and force people to scratch some card in order to reveal what they have won,” Mr Kinoti said.