Your car is stolen. You involve the Police to hunt it down but somehow, it is never recovered. It is possible that along the way, the thieves vandalised it for spare parts, leaving just a skeleton you would never recognise, write Evelyn Nalule and Carol Natukunda
Fifteen-year-old Hillary Omin aka Adam was arrested recently on charges of vandalising Matthias Magoola’s Premio in Muyenga, Tank Hill zone in Kampala. Although he is a minor, he says he has been in the car theft ring for over five years, vandalising cars to get spare parts.
He explained how he has been doing it: At night, I move through suburbs together with my colleagues to observe places that have no power. Or even if there is electricity, some people do not switch on their security lights, so it makes it easier for us to make a move in case there is any car, he says: During the day, we head to the chosen place and peep in all sentry boxes to check if there are security personnel or any evidence of a vehicle in the compound. We also check if there are dogs in those homes.
After a detailed survey and choosing the homes to attack, we go to video shacks in the vicinity and pay money to watch about three films. But we actually do not watch anything. We simply doze off ahead of the big mission later in the night. When it clocks 2:00am, we put on heavy and long dark jackets along with face masks and caps. Armed with screw drivers, pliers, master keys, metallic bars and hammers, we storm the homes. “Homes with high wall fencing and electrified razor wires were tricky to attack at first, but we normally use a pair of pliers to cut through them.
I am normally the one who climbs over the fence and jump into the compound. Tiptoeing, I open the gate using master keys to let in my colleagues. If the car is parked outside the garage, we waste no minute. We vandalise it right away and take everything we can like side mirrors, central lock systems, door locks, radio and CD accessories. We ensure that we are as fast as we can so that within minutes, we have taken as much as possible. By 3:00am, we are through with our mission. We find a nearby bush and sleep till about 5:00am.
We then get on a bodaboda which takes us to our boss in Nansana. We give him the stolen items and he pays us,” he narrates.
Ayume 16, who was arrested together with Omin vandalising the same car, was shot in the leg as he tried to take off. He narrates: When we attack a home with dogs, naturally, they run after us, barking. So I first befriend them by caressing them or sometimes, giving them something to eat. Before we know it, the dogs relax and we dismantle the car without them making any sound. When there is a security guard, we throw a stone where he is seated.
This normally scares them and they try to follow the direction where the stone came from. As they do that, we jump in from a different corner of the home. While some of us are inside dismantling the car, others, who remained outside the fence, keep the security guard’s attention divided. We normally command him to lie down and threaten that if he makes any sound, we will kill him.
Since we are masked, it is hard to make out who we are.
Twinomugisha, 44, has been a notorious thief too. He was remanded at Kikumbi Police Post, Wakiso district on January 19 and charged with vandalising a vehicle belonging to Ronald Kaya, a Toyota Brevis UAR 712N.
Being a security guard at Fred Ssemigera’s home in Kikumbi zone, Bunamwaya Parish in Makindye, Wakiso district for more than a year, Twinomigisha confesses that it has enabled him to know which residents own a car. So, this has helped me work hand in hand with my colleagues through showing them the easiest and quickest passages to the fenced houses in the area.
We also rob at a terrible speed — within 15 minutes — to avoid being arrested. Some of our colleagues, who are slow at the game, have been beaten to death by mobs or left with severe wounds.
Evans Twinomugisha, a security guard
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
Augustine Kasungwa, the officer in charge of CID at Muyenga Community Police cautions that having a high wall fence, a security guard and dogs, may not be enough. “I have seen people who just drive into their wall-fenced homes and simply leave the cars parked in the compound. You need extra security measures like alarms on the fence or the car itself, and very strong locks for your car so that the alarm wakes you up,” Kasungwa says.
He reveals that in the Muyenga homes where the two boys were arrested, there was a guard. “They first find out whether the guard is alone and if he is awake or asleep. Even if he is awake, they can ambush him, especially if he is alone. In this home, the owner of the home was out of the country and this guard was alone.
When he realised they had ambushed him, he feared that they would kill him, so he did not confront them. He instead used a ladder and went to hide in a neighbour’s house. He then called the LC who in turn called the Police,” Kasungwa narrates. Ibin Senkumbi, the deputy Police spokesperson recently warned home owners to do background checks on the people they employ.