Why Kenyan women are joining the big crime league in droves

Sunday April 22 2018

 crime.

More women are turning to crime. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

STELLA CHERONO
By STELLA CHERONO
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On March 13 this year, detectives found a blood-spattered knife on the floor of a city matatu, and as they brushed and dusted it for fingerprints, victims of the robbery wreathed in pain from stab wounds.

A few minutes earlier, as the driver was trying to beat the clock that chilly morning, an armed gang of seven had pounced on the 33 passengers from Lucky Summer estate as they headed to the Nairobi Central Business District.

The victims recounted at the Ruaraka police station how the gang, comprising five men and two women who were acting as the leaders, had boarded the matatu, disguised as passengers and took vantage positions.

“One of the women sat next to me on one of the front seats. Suddenly she unzipped her bag, stood up and shouted; ‘Your life or property’, as the rest of the gang stood and started frisking passengers and robbing them of their valuables.

"She had a gun, which she was menacingly brandishing at the terrified passengers,” one of the victims, Yvette, said.

STABBED
According to Yvette, the other gang members were armed with knives and did not hesitate to stab any passenger who hesitated in handing over their belongings or provoked them.

When the gang was done, they left in a hurry, the gang leader shooting in the air, just to remind her victims that her’s was not a toy but a deadly firearm. 

Police found two spent cartridges at the scene. More pedestrians later reported that they had been stabbed and robbed by the same gang.

Yvette was too terrified to have eye contact with the woman gangster but she remembers that she had a huge snake and anchor tattoo on her right arm, just above the wrist.

Just a week before the incident, a Kileleshwa resident made a complaint that a gang of three armed men and two women had broken into her house and taken her valuables, including a Ceska pistol loaded with six rounds of ammunition.

GANG LEADER
Early this month, police arrested a suspected leader of an all-female gang in connection with several burglaries in Muthaiga, Lavington and Kileleshwa.

The Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti said Ms Lavender Akinyi Ogilo was arrested after police raided her house in Ruaka.

Police said the gang of five has been terrorising residents for the last three years.

“She is dangerous and operates with armed gangsters who are still at large,” a police statement read. She is facing charges in court.

Other than robbery with violence and burglary, women have also joined the big league of crime that often transcends national boundaries: terrorism.

In September 2016, three robed women tricked their way into Mombasa Central police station where they stabbed one officer and set fire to the building using a petrol bomb before they were shot dead.

TERRORISTS
Investigations revealed that one of the attackers, identified as 23-year-old Fatma Omar, had just sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination at a girls’ day school in Mombasa.

The women, according to detectives, had been dropped at the entrance to the station where they staged a false theft report as a cover-up to detonating the explosives.

Since then several other women have been linked to terrorism, carjacking, assault, drugs peddling and fraud.

National Police Service Communications Director Charles Owino says the number of women getting involved in big crime is on the rise, attributing this trend to cultural dynamics, including the fact that more women are becoming sole breadwinners and that there is more influence from peers to lead an opulent lifestyle.

“Most of the women are being used by organised criminal gangs, including terrorist groups, for intelligence gathering, carrying weapons, cooking for them in their hideouts, boosting their morale and luring their targets to their traps.

"Some women are however involved in physical fighting like the women who raided the Mombasa police station a few months ago,” Mr Owino said.

VULNERABLE
The reason most of the crimes conducted by women gangsters succeed, he said, is because women often appear less suspicious than men and carrying weapons such as guns in their handbags and under their jackets is much easier for them.

Security consultant Tyrus Kamau Muya agrees with Mr Owino and says: “Women have a very sensational appeal, which plays to people’s emotions. Additionally, men are always eager to assist a woman who seems distressed or in need of help.”

He says that women play a big role in reconnaissance and persuasion in fraudulent land and motor vehicle transactions in the big towns.

In fact some of them are these days the main players in land fraud in the city and other towns where property business is booming.

And the “lucky” ones have made quite some money.

POLICE
A police officer based in Kayole in Nairobi reckons that some criminal gangs use women to seduce police officers so as to gather intelligence, which is in turn used by criminals to elude police dragnets.

Some women who are suspected to have links with criminal gangs have also been used by the police as informants making them a necessary evil.

To them, however, death is often a gunshot away.

“The problem is that they are mostly snitches for either.

"They are criminals themselves and it becomes a case of ‘on the street by those who work the street’. We despise them and need them at the same time so we have to do our calculations well,” the officer said.

The 2017 Economic Survey shows that females accounted for 19 per cent of all persons reported to have committed crimes in Kenya.

POVERTY
An audit by the National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) on the Criminal Justice System in Kenya states that female offenders in Kenya make up 18 per cent of the prison population annually with the cumulative annual turnover increasing from 10,857 in 2004 to 18,112 in 2012.

“More women are getting increasingly involved in crimes that hitherto were male dominated. Most female offenders are from poor backgrounds with low social status,” the audit released last year indicates.

It shows that majority of them are illiterate, mainly from broken families, an abusive past and cites residence in urban centres as a predisposition for some females to commit crimes.

The NCJA report also shows that women are highly likely (at 49 per cent) to be held in relation to violent offences, which include assaults, kidnapping, manslaughter, and robbery with violence, as well as infanticide and murder, which comprised 63 per cent of the violent offences category for women.

SHOOT-OUT
Last year, three female suspected robbers were killed in Kayole and Murang’a with police saying they had been found with pistols.

One of the suspects, Clare Mwaniki alias Clea Ady Vybes, was shot in Kayole in May last year, in a dramatic shoot-out that stunned police officers.

When she was shot, a social media group believed to be used by police officers going by the name ‘Hessy’ warned her female friends that they would be killed if they continued to engage in crime.