Police bust phone theft gang, hold 12

Some of the suspects at Kampala Central Police Station yesterday. PHOTO | BENSON TUMUSIIME

More than 12 suspects have been arrested in Kampala on allegations of stealing phones and illegally swapping SIM cards.

The arrests follow various complaints filed at different police stations.

A case file at Kampala Metropolitan Police headquarters states that about two months ago, police received information on alleged habitual phone snatchers, those who change serial numbers of phones and those who illegally swap the SIM cards on Rashid Kamisi Road, Mengo Road, Blue Room, KK Trust Hotel, Mutasa Kafero and Kisenyi Bus Park areas.
One of the suspects told Daily Monitor  that they use a particular machine  to swap the SIM cards.

The machine finds out the unknown pin of several mobile phones, flashes and changes pin codes,  repairs IMEI serial numbers read/write the flash, read the unlock code and repairs a touch screen.
The exhibits were recovered and taken to Old Kampala Police Station.

 Ms Rosette Atuhaire,  one of the victims, who filed a case on January 4, said she was walking a few metres away from her home on Namirembe Road when a man snatched her phone.
“I think he had been trailing me,”  Ms Atuhaire said in her statement.

Police investigations indicate that  other people had fallen victims to a gang of boys. 

The Force with the help of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras erected at some residences on Namirembe Road started reviewing various footages. Detectives at KMP also alerted crime intelligence officers that started  tracking the stolen phones.

Another victim, Mr Razak Matovu, a resident of Namungoona in Rubaga Division in Kampala, reported a case  of phone theft at Old Kampala Police Station.

He states that while walking on Nakulabye Road, a group of young boys hit him and robbed him of everything he had, including a mobile phone.

Ms Annah Mutesi, a resident of Mengo, also reported a case of theft on July 29.
She says while she was in traffic jam at about 7:30pm, two men knocked on her car window saying she had knocked someone. 

When she tried to look sideways, other men hit her car glass and picked her bag which contained a mobile phone, a passport book and Shs400,000.
Several other victims reported similar cases at Old Kampala Police Station.

The chairperson of Uganda Phone Traders Ltd, only identified as Hillary told Daily Monitor that such cases are rampant.
He said some phone traders have tried to work with police to end the crime but the thieves keep on changing the tactics. 
He said there is a group of young men headed by a one  Byaruhanga who operate around Mutaasa Kafeero Plaza. 

They visit phone shops and pretend to be buyers before they eventually confuse the shopkeeper and steal the phone.
“The groups that operate a round Mutasa Kafeero only target expensive phones and they have robbed many phone dealers and complaints were reported at police,” Hillary said.

Mr Luke Owoyesiggire, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, said  they have recorded eight complaints against the group suspected of  stealing phones worth Shs50m.

“Police have established that these stolen phones have a very big market in DR Congo, Somalia and Burundi,”  Mr Owoyesigyire said.
The suspects are detained at Kampala Central Police Station pending conclusion of investigations.


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