Police warn of new crime wave

Machete-welding thugs caught on CCTV camera at a residential premises in Nasana Municipality, Wakiso District recently. FILE PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Law enforcement agencies, in corroboration of findings in our analysis, show crime rates in the country dramatically rise each year in the months of April to June.

Police have rounded up 350 suspects in swoops in Kampala and Wakiso, Uganda’s most urbanised metropolis, as law enforcement agencies report rising crime across the country.
The upsurge is not surprising, security agencies said, explaining that Uganda annually registers higher crime waves in April and June.
Our analysis of police annual crime report for the past 16 years shows that cases of theft and house break-ins climb up each year in the second quarter --- a pattern that still puzzles detectives.

This revelation coincides with the current rising incidents of night-time burglaries being reported in Nateete, Kampala, and Nakuwadde in Wakiso District.
Residents are telling police that assailants strike in the dead of the night, and use traditional implements such as axes and pliers to cut through burglar-proofing. 
They also disable Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and steal the server to dismantle evidence.
Some arrive for the raids in vehicles, and in some cases, police say the street security cameras fail to catch the number plates of the cars. 

It’s unclear if this is a result of defective cameras, as this newspaper unearthed last month, or other reasons.
Some victims reported being bludgeoned by iron hit men, prompting the raids in which the Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, said 53 and 300 suspects were picked up in Kampala and Wakiso, respectively. 
He said police this time round plan a difference through conducting “strategic operations”.
According to Uganda Police Force annual crime reports since 2005, the period between mid-April and June has had the highest crime rate annually.

The criminal incidents’ curve often shoots up starting in April and reaches its peak in May, according to police data for the last 16 years. The curve then levels in June and drops in August.
The average number of incidents per month is around 18,000 criminal cases. But in each month between April and June, the cases rise by anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000.
Most of the cases registered during this period are larceny (theft of property and money), sex-related offences and assaults.  

The trend was only reversed in 2020 when the country was under this strictest lockdown that started in March to June to contain the spread of Coronavirus. The month of April had the lowest crime rate in 2020.   
According to Mr Owoyesigyire, their strategy this season will be on disrupting criminal gangs so that they don’t give them chance to organise and regroup.
“We have already started the operations. We have carried out operations in Nateete, Makindye, Old Kampala and Nansana. We target spots that are known for being home of criminals and then disrupt them,” he said yesterday.

Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire

Mr Owoyesigyire said the disruptive operations are yielding success that during the festive season, they didn’t get any robbery case in Old Kampala, which is known to be a hotspot of such offences.
“At the weekend, we carried out an operation in an area infested with criminals in Nateete. And many recoveries were made. We arrested 53 suspects. Another 300 were arrested in Nakuwadde in Wakiso District. These are the ones that have been attacking people on the Northern Bypass,” he said.

Police action
He said their crime studies show that when they carry out continued operations in areas where the suspected criminals reside and in shops where they sell stolen items, the criminal incidents drastically reduce.
However, in the last two weeks, areas in Kira, Nansana and Makindye-Ssabagabo municipalities have received complaints of home invasion by armed criminals. 
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga didn’t respond to our questions seeking explanation on why the crime rate is highest during the second quarter of the year. Police say they have never carried out a study to understand the pattern and underlying causes.

In several meetings, some senior police officers have attributed the high incidents in those months to a rainy season in April that gives criminals room to carry out their act.
However, this explanation appears incomplete as it does not account for the second rain season, starting August and running in some parts of the country to October, during which police data shows declining crime rate.
The crime reports also show that crime also slightly increases during the second harvest season around September and November, but not at the same magnitude as in the months of April to June.

Other senior officers, including Director of Operations Edward Ochom, who once headed the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), and later the Research and Planning Directorate, believe they get many complaints of defilement, theft and assaults between May and June because many people, especially in the rural areas, consume a lot of alcohol after getting money from sale of their crop harvest.
Giving his experience when he was a regional commander in western Uganda, Mr Ochom said in the rural areas, when people have money and drink, they don’t fear to engage in a fight and they insist that they would use their money to get a police bond or pay for court bail.

He also said it is during the same period of harvest that domestic violence cases rise because many men in rural areas with reasonable cash get new partners, or grab their wives’ earnings, which is a source of violence and crime.
Last week, Mr Enanga said most of the attackers, who have been raiding homes in urban areas since early April, are pushed by monetary gains. He said a few are interested in sexually assaulting their female victims and mainly target students at home for first term holidays.