Toyota: Uganda’s most stolen car
Posted Thursday, September 26 2013 at 01:00
Imagine parking your locked car at the entrance of a shopping mall to buy a few commodities and when you come back, you discover that someone has stolen it. It is an experience many motorists go through in the country.
The police crime report of 2012 shows that the most stolen cars in the country are Toyota with 131 cars stolen followed by Nissan (15) and Isuzu (14).
Unlike in other countries, the police here doesn’t exactly state which makes/models. So we don’t know whether or not the most stolen Toyotas are Mark II, Raum, Spacio, Vitz, Corolla, Corona or Carina and the same for other vehicles. These names are known to the victims of the robberies.
It would help police simplify their work when recording statements and making reports, if these owners gave details.
European brands are not in demand
Most of the cars that fall victim to vandalism are usually trailed by the thieves. The report also shows fewer thefts for expensive car
makes like BMW, Benz and Volkswagen. These brands are fewer when compared with those from Japan and their demand is not that high. Interestingly, the expensive cars are the most targeted in the developed countries.
At least 943 cars were stolen in 2012 of which 301 were recovered, the crime report indicates. With the increase in theft and robbery of cars in Uganda and other countries, the International Police (Interpol) was prompted to carry out an operation dubbed “Usalama Operations” around the East African region.
Deputy Police spokesman, Mr Patrick Onyango, said they impounded 103 motor vehicles of which 97 were found to have altered chassis and engine numbers, and their colour changed without permission from authorised institutions.
“We suspect that these motor vehicles were stolen because in most cases of theft and robbery of motor vehicles, chassis and engine numbers are altered so that they can be sold to unsuspecting clients,” Mr Onyango said.Mr Onyango said most of the altered cars can’t even be recognised by
the owners. Early this year, at least 10 people were arrested and 12 commuter taxis, which were stolen and their chassis and engine numbers altered, were recovered. The operation was started after a spike in the theft of commuter taxis in Kampala especially in parking lots and washing bays. Intelligence officers say that in Kampala Metropolitan Police area alone, more than four commuter taxis are stolen a day.
This area covers districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso and parts of Mpigi and Kayunga.The impounded commuter taxis have been using number plates of those commuter taxis that were either written off or whose wreckage
has been sold as scrap.
How taxis are stolen
The criminals work in three groups with the first tracing and tracking commuter taxis to be stolen. The second group steals the targeted taxis while the third one buys them. According to an Criminal Intelligence officer, the ringleader pays Shs800,000 to those who track the commuter taxi to be stolen and Shs300,000 to those who actually steal and drive it to the garage where the chassis and engine numbers are changed. “The criminals erase the chassis and engine numbers of the taxi and replace them with those of the commuter taxi whose wreckage was written off. They will also change the appearance by spraying it with a new colour,” an intelligence officer said.
Given the fact that the criminals have the logbook of the written off commuter taxi, they will use in the sale of the taxi to another person.
“The buyer will never know that the taxi is stolen because the documents seem to be genuine even in the Uganda Revenue Authority records,” the officer said. Another reason given is that because there are many taxis, some people duplicate their keys.
“One Kigege key can open and start many other taxis because they are easy to duplicate,” a police officer commented.
Unfortunately, most suspects go away without harsh punishment. The Usalama Operation report indicates that one car thief was prosecuted in Mukono District and convicted but court fined him only Shs100,000 before releasing him. The other challenge is that DRC and South Sudan don’t have the Interpol automated car system to track stolen vehicles. Other countries in the region usually cooperate to track down stolen vehicles using such a system.