Fresh alarm raised as street gamblers back in city streets

Gamblers gather at the OTC stage in Nairobi on April 10, 2020, without observing social distance that is intended to curb the spread of Coronavirus in the Country. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Nairobi residents have raised concerns over the presence of gamblers on some of the city's streets.

Police had succeeded in removing them following an outcry by the public.

A spot-check around the city established that the gamblers are avoiding the main streets like Kenyatta and Moi avenues.

Instead, they now operate in areas next to busy matatus stands like around  Haile Selassie and Ronald Ngala streets.

It is alleged they have invented new ways of operating, whereby they chase away and brand as thieves persons they deem suspicious.

"They use women to lure people to buy into their tricks," said Sarafina Rashid, a witness who once fell victim.

Sandra Okwach, a college student who was heading to western Kenya, fell prey to the con artists on Thursday at the railway matatu terminus.

She was attracted to them after being promised that her cash would be doubled. She lost money and her laptop.

"I had placed Sh200 to play in anticipation that I will win more but I lost the money and someone stole my laptop," said Okwach.

Central OCPD David Baariu said he had received reports of the return of gamblers in the city.

He, however, called on the courts to be strict when issuing bond terms to the suspects when they are arrested and arraigned in court.

"The problem we have is that when they are arraigned in court they are set free on low bond terms, which allows them to go back to their businesses as soon as they can," said the OCPD.

Baariu said that in the recent past, they apprehended some suspects involved in the trade but when they were presented in court, they were set free on low bonds terms.

"To help end this vice once and for all, when we take them to courts they should be given hefty bond terms that make it hard for them to raise," said Baariu.

The gamblers had previously taken over major streets and roads like Luthuli Avenue, Khoja, Kenya Cinema, National Archives, Ronald Ngala and the OTC bus station and operated in broad daylight without fear of being arrested. 

City dwellers called on the police to launch a crackdown to rid the city of the notorious groups, terming them a grave danger.