Joseph Nyamu stood pensively outside the Eldoret Central Police Station on a chilly morning, hoping to find his car that had been stolen a week earlier.
Mr Nyamu had heard from a friend that police had on Monday October 7, organised an identification exercise for lost and found cars.
After waiting for some time, a team of police bosses, led by County Commander Johnstone Ipara, emerged. Nyamu’s hopes were, however, dashed as soon as the exercise began.
Nyamu, who had lost a vehicle registration number KBD 862J, was shocked to only find the windscreen of his missing car. He says he had just cleared a loan he took to buy it.
“The thieves removed the windscreen and mirrors because they bore the registration number. The car is yet to be recovered,” said a devastated Nyamu.
Nyamu is among victims of a wave of well-executed car thefts that has befallen Eldoret town for the past eight months, leaving motorists counting losses.
Our sourcewithin the team of police officers investigating the racket for nearly two years, claim the number of cars stolen in the town since January could be as high as 146.
Mr Ipara, on the other hand, says he forwarded data to Nairobi last month, but declines to explain why he would not disclose figures he approved to be forwarded to police headquarters.
Four lose cars
On September 28, four motorists who had attended the recording of an entertainment programme at a sports cub found their cars missing upon return to the parking lot.
In another incident, a Probox, registration number KBN 994G, was stolen outside a supermarket in Eldoret town.
Joseph Burgei, the owner, said his vehicle was up for sale at the time it was stolen outside the supermarket.
Mr Burgei said the car, which was later found in Kericho, was in the hands of a car dealer at the time it was stolen.
“I had just bought it and I wanted to sell the car and a dealer said he had identified a buyer and he requested to retain it. At 10pm, he called and said the car was missing. The following day I went to the police station, where I was told the car had already been reported missing by the trader,” Burgei explained.
He said CCTV cameras at the supermarket showed that the car was stolen by two men, one of whom was identified by a security guard and later traced to Kericho.
Burgei claimed police officer requested Sh3,000 to facilitate tracking of the suspect, which he offered because he was desperate to have the car back.
Burgei said the vehicle was later found in Kericho, but has been detained at the Litein Police Station since June for unclear reasons.
On July 11, a member of the syndicate was arrested while attempting to break into a car parked outside a building on the Eldoret-Iten highway at a round 6am. The owner of the vehicle was inside the car.
Witnesses said the thief approached the parked car and attempted to open the door using a T-shaped master key.
The motorist inside the car whose windows were tinted raised the alarm, attracting the attention of boda boda operators, who were at a parking area nearby.
On September 20, a team of Flying Squad from Nairobi found 13 vehicles in a homestead in Mosoriot, Nandi County, and arrested the owner of the homestead.
Among the vehicles recovered at the suspect’s compound was a Mercedes Benz, a Toyota Hilux, Toyota Premio, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi FH and two pickups (a Mitsubishi and Isuzu).
An officer who spoke to The Standard in confidence said a ring within the police force was frustrating efforts to arrest suspects.
The corporal said he lost count of car theft suspects he had arrested since last year, but who were not being charged for the offence because some senior police officers were beneficiaries.
“There is a network between a group of three officers and the suspects. They ensure the suspects operate smoothly. They also pretend to mediate between owners of vehicles stolen and recovered to deal with matters out of court,” said the frustrated officer.
Our informer further explained: “There has been more arrests in the last few weeks because of change in command. There is a powerful ring based in Nakuru and Nairobi. Suspects who steal and deliver the stolen cars are paid Sh20,000 for a delivered car. The protectors within the police are also paid.”
Ipara yesterday said 15 vehicles had been recovered, but declined to give the total number of cars stolen in the year.
“We can only investigate our officers if complaints are brought forward. Thirteen suspects have been arrested since August. We are extending our surveillance to neighbouring counties of Elgeyo Marakwet, Nakuru, Trans Nzoia and Nandi,” he said.
Of the lost cars, 12 were reported to have been stolen around a mall off the Eldoret-Uganda highway.
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