Kisumu residents ask Matiang'i to intervene as criminal gangs re-emerge

Security chiefs CS Fred Matiang’i (right) and IG Joseph Boinnet (left) during the Police Conference at the Kenya School of Government, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Police in Kisumu say they have scaled down the war against a resurging crime wave down to two ‘small’ criminal gangs, one of which is led by a former convict.

Security bosses on Thursday said a dragnet was being laid by team of crime investigators to net members of the gang said to be operating on motorcycles in executing violent robberies.

Although they downplayed the scale of the criminal wave, “due to failure by victims and members of the public to report the incidences”, residents said otherwise.

The County Commander of Police John Kamau said only two cases of the violent robberies had been reported over the past week against public and social media outcry that a group was reigning terror in the lakeside town even in broad daylight.

“We have our special teams that interact with the residents and whereas we have not received any report that would indicate a resurgence in crime per se, working towards containing the fear created by activists by eliminating the budding organised crime,” he assured.

One of the leaders of the gangs, a Mr Hamilton, Kisumu Central OCPD Mutune Maweu, said, would be charged once he is discharged from hospital, having sustained injuries during a confrontation with an officer who had gone to arrest him.

The violent debacle left at least 10 people injured as members of the public helped the plain-clothed officer fight Hamilton’s gang according to the OCPD.

The officer who was echoing his boss’ sentiments that a sting squad was already trailing suspects said the mode of operation of the gangs was similar to that employed before the ex-convict, he did not name, was arrested, charged and convicted.

The police response follows an appeal by a Kisumu activist to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police to crack the whip on police in the town over what they termed as laxity in dealing with a resurging crime wave.

In the appeal by Kisumu City Residents Voice chairman Audi Ogada, residents live in fear as at least two criminal gangs reign terror on them in the cover of darkness.

He says three people have been killed and at least 10 others injured over the past week by a suspected criminal gang “which some residents say work in complicity with some rogue officers.”

The three, two of who were boda boda operators, were hacked and left for the dead as they were robbed in different areas in Kisumu town and its environs, according to Mr Ogada.

These incidences, he says in the appeal, had been reported to the police who were yet to act.

“We wish to strongly appeal for urgent intervention following series of robbery incidences within Kisumu and it's environ which has generated public outcry. As a matter of candid fact, three bodies are lying at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga hospital mortuary breathless as a result of attacks by gangs in different parts of Kisumu County for the past one week,” read the appeal in part.

He claimed further that police were yet to visit a family that was attacked, assaulted and robbed of all valuable houseware at Kanyakwar on Saturday night. “Their children also sustained injuries during the robbery.  The incident was reported but police have not visited the homestead 48 hours after this ugly incident,” he said in the appeal copied to the county government.

The appeal by Mr Ogada also contains pictures and statements of victims of the gangs that are also said to trace motorists using motorcycles and violently rob them while armed with knives and other crude weapons. Audi attributes the crime wave to reduced police patrols and special operations against orgasnised crime.

He said: “On the whole, police laxity is pathetic and citizens must rice up and demand explanation from none other than the Inspector General of police himself and the CS interior Ministry Matiang’i.”

In a spot check interview with residents in the areas frequently cited for the criminal activities, they said there was a general feel of insecurity due to increased reports of muggings.

But in their defense the security bosses say the reports are exaggerated “because they are not reported.”