Phone theft is a menace that authorities all over the world are grappling with. In recent days, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has been stepping up its fight against the thugs. On Wednesday this week, detectives based in Nyeri arrested three suspects linked to phone theft. The arrest of the three led to the recovery of 417 phones, other electronics and 47 mobile subscriber sim cards.
John Kariuki, James Thuita and another man are now in police custody. They are set to be arraigned in court on Monday. David Thinwa Ngatia is the third suspect. It is alleged that he operates a mobile phone repair shop where the stolen phones were found. The Nyeri security command claims that the suspects are behind “a surge in pick pocketers” operating in Nyeri town.
Illegal Cross border Trade
Across the country, detectives have stepped up the hunt for phone thieves. What is alarming for most Kenyans is the emerging fact that crime is growing into a cross-border underworld trade. Last month, the DCI’s Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau arrested two Ugandans linked with phone theft in Nairobi. Detectives claimed the Ugandans, who had Kenyan accomplices, used courier services to ferry stolen phones from Kenya to Uganda.
In August, detectives from Makadara police station arrested 10 suspects. 5 of those arrested were foreigners from Burundi. The police swoop led to the recovery of 450 phones. Makadara sub-county police commander Mrs. Judith Nyongesa told the press that the syndicate was led by 2 Nigerians who were still at large at the time.
Further, she stated that the crime syndicate smuggled the stolen phones to backstreet markets in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria for resale. Nairobi Regional Criminal Investigations Officer Peter Njeru has in a past media interview stated that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is another destination for the phones.
Such is the scale of the crime that the DCI is now working with Interpol to fight the smuggling of the gadgets across borders.
Phone Theft Crime Numbers
Authorities across the world have acknowledged that phone theft is a persistent menace. Statistics show that nearly 70% of all thefts in London last year were related to mobile phones. In the last six months of this year, a total of 26,000 phones were stolen in London alone. In Nairobi, it is estimated that there is a smartphone lost to snatchers every 10 minutes. Alarmingly, the crime is increasingly becoming fatal. In 2023, 10 victims have lost their lives in Nairobi to phone thugs.
Recently, Apple, Samsung, Google and other leading mobile manufacturers convened a meeting with police to discuss ways to prevent phone theft.