THE crackdown on suspected stolen vehicles from Japan, Dubai and elsewhere kicked off in the city yesterday, causing anxiety among motorists.
The operation conducted by Interpol, Special Branch, CID and armed Police mainly targeted saloon and four-wheel drive vehicles entering the city.
A similar operation was conducted in Kenya starting last week, sending signals that the move is geared towards combating car thefts in the East African region.
In Kampala, at least 200 vehicles were screened before they were released at the Fire Brigade headquarters near Clock Tower. Twenty-four vehicles were impounded.
The vehicles included 18 saloon cars, three Pajeros, two Landcruisers and a Rav4
â€œWe are still ascertaining the rightful owners of these vehicles. At the moment we still canâ€™t tell who owns them,â€ said a senior traffic officer.
Kampala city Police chief Grace Turyagumanawe said, â€œWe canâ€™t tell the exact number of vehicles we have seized because the exercise is still going on. We shall have the final figure later.â€
The Police said the operation that kicked off from Kampala would cover the rest of the country next week.
The majority of the cars flagged down included re-conditioned Toyotas, Land Cruisers and Pajeros from Japan and Dubai.
The director of operations in the Uganda Police Force, Francis Rwego, oversaw the operation which motorists described as cumbersome and inconveniencing.
â€œWe have instructions from above to carry out this operation. We are just carrying out routine checks on suspected stolen vehicles,â€ said an Interpol officer.
At the two major operations carried out at the Clock Tower and Lugogo, motorists flagged down were ordered to open their bonnets. Plain clothes officers took their time to check their engine and chassis numbers, causing anger among motorists.
Most car owners who had no logbooks had to park their vehicles and dash for the original logbooks.
â€œThis operation is a bother to us. I am late for duty and I am still being held here. The Police should have the courtesy to inform us earlier,â€ said a motorist, Rosemary Kagimu.
By yesterday afternoon, over 300 vehicles seized earlier had been released. The owners were also issued with clearance stickers.
Rwego, who appeared reluctant to talk, said, â€œWe shall inform the media on what is going on but for now letâ€™s leave it at that.â€
According to international laws. stolen vehicles may be seized on the strength of a search warrant issued by a competent court on application by the Police. After seizure, it is up to the Police or customs authorities to decide on its disposal.
Interpol estimates that three million vehicles are stolen worldwide annually, earning the thieves over $9b.
Interpol raids Kampala for stolen cars