Car robbers have hit the city once again, with even newer tricks this time. These include hiring drivers for seemingly lucrative deals, feigning sickness and lacing food and drinks with chloroform. Besides, some robbers use master keys to steal parked cars while others pose as passengers who later use weapons such as firearms, REPORTS Chris Kiwawulo and Stephen Candia.
A new wave of car thefts has emerged in Kampala, hardly a year after Police busted a racket of deadly car robbers in the city. The robbers have a large bag of tricks that they use to rob unsuspecting victims of their vehicles.
These include hiring drivers for seemingly lucrative deals, feigning sickness or lacing food and drinks with chloroform.
Besides, some robbers use master keys to steal parked cars while others pose as passengers who later use weapons such as firearms, iron bars and machetes to bludgeon their victims before making off with their cars.
Jacob Kato, a photographer with the Presidential Press Unit, lost his car, a silver cream Toyota Corolla registration number UAF 187S, on July 6. Kato said he had parked the car in front of a supermarket at Najjanankumbi Stella opposite Nnyondo Pub at around 8:30pm. â€œI entered an office next to the supermarket and on getting out, my car was missing,â€ Kato explained.
When contacted over the matter, deputy Kampala Police deputy spokesperson Ibin Ssenkumbi, said though he has no statistics on the new wave of robberies, he was aware of cases of car thefts by thugs posing as clients in need of self-drive vehicles.
â€œLately there have been cases of car thefts by people who pretend that they want self-ride only for them to disappear with the cars,â€ Ssenkumbi said.
The annual Police crime report of 2010 indicates that up to 6,025 robbery cases were investigated last year. Of these 1,154 were aggravated robberies (where lethal weapons like firearms, knives and machetes were used).
Of the total cases of aggravated robbery, 48 were cases of robbery of motor vehicles. Due to continued vigilance and the Policeâ€™s continued crackdown on car robbers, the cases had dropped from 87 in 2009 to 48 last year. But they have resumed.
In January this year, operatives of the Policeâ€™s Rapid Response Unit (RRU) arrested eight suspected thugs, including three notorious car robbers who specialise in stealing new vehicles which are then sold in neighbouring countries. The operations were carried out in the five districts of Kampala, Bulambuli, Jinja, Hoima and Wakiso.
The RRU commandant, Joel Aguma, said the crime of car robbery was becoming common in the city. The most sought after cars are Ipsums and Toyota corollas popularly known as kikumis, which are sold in neighbouring countries like Tanzania, Congo and Southern Sudan.
He said they have arrested some suspects and recovered found hammers, chloroform, beer and mineral water bottles from them.
Aguma said his men also impounded a vehicle registration number UAM 516X and two motorcycles bearing the same number plate UDQ 868P believed to have been used by the criminals to steal cars.
â€œThe robbers pretend to know the vehicle owner and lure him/her to go for a drink where they connive with waitresses who lace the victimâ€™s drink with chloroform before they make off with the car.â€
Aguma said a Police operation in the city also uncovered evidence that some of the thieves forge car logbooks and use them as collateral to obtain bank loans.
The victims only find out that their logbooks have been forged when banks impound their car. Aguma warned car owners to report any suspicious people to the Police.
Last October, Police broke up a racket of deadly car robbers who would lure their victims, murder them and take their vehicles. The RRU mounted an operation and arrested Charles Iga and his accomplices.
Among them was the prime suspect, Robert Ssempebwa Kazahura alias Lt. Robert, Ronald Asiimwe alias Kanyankole, Bob Kibirango, Mutebi Ssekatawa and Kasimu Kato.
Others were Geoffrey Ssempijja, Bernard Muhangi, Kenneth Yenge, Ramathan Kakooza, Micheal Matovu, Edward Nsubuga and Gerald Mukasa. Since their arrest, the vehicle robberies have drastically gone down.
Park your car in the garage or behind a locked gate.
Park in your driveway if any.
Even if you donâ€™t have a garage or gate, pull in as far as you can as the drive way can serve as a deterrent.
Never leave your car running unattended. Even if you are just dashing in for â€œjust a momentâ€ or â€œletting it warm up.â€
Tell colleagues your destinations.
Be cautious of the people you give your car to.
Install car tracking devices.
Avoid giving lifts to strangers, especially at night.