Kampala Metropolitan deputy police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire (L) and Police spokesperson Fred Enanga. PHOTO/COMBO/FILE


Changing face of urban crime

What you need to know:

  • Gangs nowadays go about operations ranging from trafficking drugs, burglary and killing or kidnapping with reckless abandon.

When Uganda went into a pandemic-enforced lockdown in March 2020, urban crime increased as several youth were left idle. 

With a big pool from which to make recruits, dreaded gangs operating in Kampala Metropolitan area committed crimes ranging from vehicle theft and burglary to robbery and assault.

When machete-wielding gangs descended on the metropolis, city dwellers feared for the worst.

Group members of respective gangs enlisted through dark, underworld connections. Creepy names such as Kifeesi, B-13, Da Dangers, Bukolwa crew, Baboon, Kasolo boys, Bijambiya, Dog Tulumbe, Dog Kaye, Whisper, Big Young, Young Kikuubo, Kagirita, and Kamenke, among others, were quite popular. 

Eager to show potential recruits who ruled the roost, the gangs needed little invitation to engage in turf wars.
Police sources told Saturday Monitor that the pandemic appears to have dramatically changed the picture of urban crime.

Gangs nowadays go about operations ranging from trafficking drugs, burglary and killing or kidnapping with such reckless abandon.

Over time a pattern has emerged, with the portrait sketched putting the well-coordinated criminal gangs that terrorise the residents of Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono areas in neat subsets. 

Gangs targeting foreigners
This type of gang only targets foreign nationals carrying large sums of money. Its members trail their victims on motorcycles, selecting them especially at the banks and other financial institutions.

After their victims have exited the financial institutions with cash, they wait in a traffic jam where they knock the victim’s car. When the affected person comes out to examine the damage, they are numerically overwhelmed. Some of the gang members punch the victim, while others go for the cash. Thereafter, they hop on motorcycles and flee the scene.

This group doesn’t carry weapons. Its members also make no attempt to mask their faces even in places that have CCTV cameras. Kampala Metropolitan Police has recorded at least seven such incidents since the beginning of this year.

The heists of this group include one launched on the manager of Mid-West Forex Bureau, Mr Hassan Maalim. The Kenyan national was waylaid after withdrawing cash from DTB Bank at Wilson Street last September. The members of this gang also roughed up a Chinese national, robbing him of his cash on Bombo Road.

According to the police, Paul Ssemwogerere headed this group. Mr Ssemwogerere, who is also known as Whisper, has since been arrested alongside seven of his accomplices.

The gang, however, swung back into action this past week, attacking an Ethiopian diplomat in the leafy suburb of Kololo. 

The Kampala Metropolitan deputy police spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigire confirmed that the Ethiopian national—who lost a laptop and two mobile phones—recorded a statement at Jinja road police station.

Breaking in offices and shops

This gang invests in its operations. A gang member, for instance, rents a shop in the arcade near their targeted victims. Most of their victims are financial institutions like forex bureaus that keep cash in their coffers at night. Shops selling mobile phones are also popular targets.

On the fateful day, the criminals pretend to be renovating their shop. This gives them leeway to work through the night. They then drill holes in the wall next to the shops of their victims. After, they help themselves to anything valuable in the brick and mortar broken into.  Owing to this, many people selling mobile phones no longer leave their merchandise in the shops.

Gangs targeting motor vehicles
On Monday, police released footage of gangs who have employed new trick in breaking into motor vehicles. The video showed that members of this type of gang employ devices that ably disable alarm systems. They also have new technology that is used to reprogramme and disconnect the alarm. The police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, revealed that the Force is handling one such case involving a female victim.

“As soon as she entered the supermarket, her motor vehicle was broken into and Shs50m— which she had withdrawn from the bank—was robbed,” he said, adding, rather ominously, “The whole operation took just a few seconds.” he said.

Mr Enanga added that the Directorate of Crime Intelligence together with the territorial commanders of Kampala Metropolitan Police managed to track and arrest one of the gang members who was captured on a CCTV camera.

The police also confirmed that it has registered 20 similar break-ins and the cases are being investigated by CCTV command centre in tandem with the crime intelligence units and the territorial commanders.

Other crimes are committed at dusk where thugs access people’s homes and then use electronic devices to disconnect alarms behind the dashboard and other gadgets. Mr Enanga has encouraged property owners to install real-time monitoring systems.

Police sources told Saturday Monitor that an average of 800 cars were stolen in Kampala Metropolitan area in the past three years. 

We also understand that a further 900 motorcycles vanish in thin air each year in the capital and its neighbouring districts of Wakiso and Mukono.

However, a partial report on the CCTV cameras contribution on fighting vehicle and motorcycle thefts last year in Kampala gives hope that crime rate could soon reduce. This is because of the number of cases that were captured by CCTV cameras. We understand that it helped the police to arrest the culprits while also recovering most of the stolen cars and motorcycles.

For instance, a Toyota Sprinter G-Touring, registration number UAK 501P, which was stolen from Komamboga, Kawempe Division in Kampala, was reported missing at Kira Road Police Staion. 

Police retrieved CCTV footage of that afternoon and were able to intercept the vehicle and two suspects on Bombo road. Close to 100 cases related to vehicle thefts were handled with the help of CCTV cameras in greater Kampala.

Other crimes
Other crimes are committed at dusk where thugs access people’s homes and then use electronic devices to disconnect alarms behind the dashboard,for cars and other gadgets.