By Eddie Ssejjoba
The Police on Friday carried out an impromptu operation in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb and recovered 118 number plates of suspected stolen cars. The operation carried out by the Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department from Kibuli also netted five suspects including two women.
The deputy Police spokesperson, Vincent Ssekate, said most of the suspects are mechanics in Bwaise, who own garages where vehicles are disassembled and stripped in a twinkle of an eye after stealing them from owners.
The Police have been battling car thieves that target the latest car models and those whose spare parts are on high demand in Kampala and neighbouring countries.
Ssekate said over 36 omnibus taxis have been recovered from various towns and hide-outs around the city, but warned that the racket of robbers had changed strategy and were targeting four-wheel drive cars, whose demand was allegedly high in countries like DR Congo, South Sudan and Tanzania.
The suspects included Ismael Ssemakula, who was arrested earlier but led the Police to net others. Ponsiano Katumba, Ronald Mugenyi and Robert Ssembuuze as well as Shakira Abdallah, a Kenyan and resident of Nabweru and Shadia Nalubega were also arrested.
Number plates included some from Rwanda but the Police were yet to identify the owners.
Ssekate said the thugs change engine chassis numbers and alter most of the key marks on the vehicle. Some are reassembled and look different before the owner unless one is an expert to detect his or her vehicle. The thugs, according to the Police, connive with car washers at washing bays to access keys of their customers and then duplicate them.
“They then trail the unsuspecting motorists to especially night spots and unguarded office parking yards from where they pick the vehicles,” Ssekate explained.
The most common routes of escape include Salaama Road, Bwaise-Gulu road, Kabalagala-Gaba and others.
Ssekate warned the public against buying vehicles before verifying all the vital marks including physically scratching chassis and engine numbers so that they correspond with the logbook details and other key information about a vehicle.
“Car owners should also avoid dropping their keys with car washers because they always get paid to allow thugs access the keys and use simple technology to duplicate them,” he said.