VICTIMS SPEAK OUT : How thieves steal cars in under a minute

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The Police’s Directorate of Crime Intelligence through its Flying Squad Unit has recovered a total of 34 stolen vehicles after dismantling a gang involved in these robberies in various parts of the country.

On Monday, some of the vehicles were handed over to their owners after verification.

Nile Post spoke to the different victims of the car thefts who narrated how their vehicles were stolen in under a minute.

“My vehicle was stolen in May from my home in Mukono after parking it at midnight but in the morning, I could not trace it. I suspect the people who stole the vehicle had been trailing me and knew my every move that on the fateful day, when I parked it, they stole it,” said Allan Mawanda, a councillor in Mukono.

He said that on being stolen, he reported the matter to police, adding that he had lost hope in ever getting back his vehicle until a few days ago when he was called by officers from the Crime Intelligence Directorate asking him to present the vehicle’s logbook to confirm whether it was his.

“I had lost hope in ever getting it back. I was in plans of getting another vehicle. After being stolen from Mukono, it was driven to Jinja and later Mbale where the number plate and chasis number were changed and fake ones put. The colour was also changed. On many occasions, they steal your vehicle, change its number plate and colour and it bypasses you without noticing.”

Police recently indicated that scrap dealers sell number plates from cars that were written off due to accidents or those they have dismantled into scrap.

The number plates are sold for shs400,000 to the car robbers and these are placed on stolen vehicles.

Alex Ssempiira’s story is almost similar to the one of Allan Mawanda as the vehicle was stolen from his home at night.

He says he later reported the matter to police in Mukono prompting officers to lead him to the CCTV camera centre to be able to trace the whereabouts of the vehicle.

“The cameras captured the vehicle during the day before it was stolen but we could not trace it on CCTV cameras after being stolen. We suspect the number plate was removed as soon as it was stolen and this way, we could not view it on CCTV cameras.”

However, the story is different for Chrysostom Kangave, a mechanic from Lubaga whose vehicle, a Toyota Hilux  was stolen during broad day light by brokers.

“A person well known to me came as a broker and said he wanted to get a buyer for my vehicle. He asked that he test-drives the vehicle to see its mechanical condition. He drove but after an hour we realized he was not returning. On calling his phone, it was off and this is when reality set in that the vehicle had been stolen,”Kangave said.

He says he reported the matter to Nateete Police and reviewing the CCTV cameras, the vehicle had been captured being driven towards Mutundwe but the exact location could not be traced.

“We set traps for a number of days including monitoring on CCTV cameras by police thinking we could see it but all didn’t yield anything,” the mechanic says.

He however noted that after the arrest of the robbers by the Flying Squad, it was revealed that the vehicle was driven and parked in a fenced house in Mutunde –Kisigula where there are a few CCTV cameras and number plate removed.

The mechanic and victim of the robbery indicated that it appears the robbers know places where police CCTV cameras are and always try to avoid them.

He adds that the vehicle was recovered after the robbers tried to look for the market of the vehicle and some of the people they asked were Flying Squad operatives who immediately arrested them.

For Haruna Katumwa, the story is not so different from others after the vehicle was stolen from home at night.

“I returned home at around 1am and was very tired. I parked it and as I went to bed, I heard something hitting my vehicle. I immediately switched off all lights and observed outside but there was nothing apart from my dog running around,”Katumwa says.

“Because I was tired, I didn’t bother going out but a few minutes later, I heard the vehicle being driven off. This was an hour after returning home.”

According to Katumwa, at first, the robbers pushed the vehicle for a distance of about 50 metres so as to ensure it makes no sound and on realizing they were good to go, they drove it off.

On recovery, the vehicle’s number plate had been removed and a fake one installed.

For Janet Nabukeera, her Toyota Spacio was stolen a few minutes after parking it during a burial in Mukono.

“I parked it and went to join other mourners for burial. However, 20 minutes later, the vehicle had been driven off by unknown persons,”Nabukeera said.

According to the revelations by the victims, most of the vehicles are stolen from areas which are not secured, for example homes without fences are an easy target for robbers.

It has also come to light that the robbers trail and surveil their targets that they strike a few minutes after the vehicles being parked .

The police spokesperson, Fred Enanga recently noted that  most of these are stolen after the owners or drivers are targeted by the robbers who follow them.

For example, at washing bays, the robbers connive with attendants who help them duplicate the car keys and after this, those to carry out the mission trail the owners or drivers to the parking places where the vehicle is stolen immediately is parked and the owner moves out.

The robbers are also said to use master keys to open vehicles with weak lock systems.

“Premio ordinary and Noah vehicles are the most targeted vehicles through this kind of robbery. They are dismantled for spare parts since they have ready market,”Enanga says.

He adds that taxis, Super Customs  and tipper lorries are also targeted by the gang whose members disguise  to be hiring the vehicles for use and that during the journey, these strangle the driver and turn boy before taking off with the vehicles.

The robbers also use chloroform in some cases to lace drivers before taking off with vehicles.

“They are re-sprayed with new colours whereas chasis numbers and log books are altered. Most of them end up in DRC through the porous border of Vurra but also to Kenya via Busia, and Tanzania via ungazetted routes at Mutukula.”

Operation

Recently, the Directorate of Crime Intelligence’s Flying Squad Unit recently carried out an operation in which 34 vehicles and over 40 motorcycles were recovered.

Whereas some of these have been verified and returned to owners, others are yet to claim their vehicles and according to the police spokesperson, anyone who lost their vehicle ought to check with police.

“Our task teams continue to gather, exchange, analyze intelligence surrounding scrap dealers where stolen vehicles are dismantled, garages, second hard dealers etc. For those buying second hand motor vehicle from dealers, we advise them to fast check, whether the identity of the vehicle has not been changed. Ensure the vehicle identification number in the vehicle is the same as the engine numbers on the vehicle, before acquiring it.”

“We urge the public, especially drivers and car owners, to always park in secure places, lock their vehicles, keep the keys safe, beware of car jerkers, install modern vehicle alarms and tracker systems, park responsibly, watch out for car thieves, fit good in-car security locks like steering wheel, locus gear level locks or clutch pedal security device, for added protection and to manually check whether their vehicles are locked, before walking away.”

 

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