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SSU disbanding: Is this why there is a resurgence of crime in Nairobi?

Police and members of the public move in to clear a section of the Naivasha-Kirima road which had been closed off by residents to protest a rise in cases of crime. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Friction between the National Police Service and the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) is being blamed for the recent escalation of crime in Nairobi, especially in the Central Business District.

The police, however, say the number of unreported cases shared on social media is alarming and urge those affected to report them officially.

This week, several messages have been doing rounds on Twitter and WhatsApp groups warning people to be on the lookout, especially at the Drive-in flyover heading to Kenya College of Accountancy (KCA), along Thika Road.

According to the message doing rounds, suspected thugs have been mugging and stabbing pedestrians on the busy road even in broad daylight.

However, a spot check at various police stations indicated that no such incidents have been reported and recorded in occurrence books.

A senior police officer at Vigilance House has confided to The Standard that most police officers had taken a back seat following the subsequent arrests and prosecution by IPOA, of their colleagues across the country.

"Most of them go on patrol as assigned and return to their respective stations without any arrests not because they don't witness any crimes, but they are just reluctant after the recent prosecution of their fellow officers," the source said.

The officer also agreed that in as much as there are rogue officers in the police service, most of them are out to serve the public but choose to refrain from using force when dealing with hardcore thugs.

"What do you do when you meet armed thugs who have just robbed someone downtown? Do you chase them with handcuffs? Remember these officers are also risking their lives by dealing with armed robbers who can shoot even without being provoked," he added.

At the same time, he linked the escalating crime to the disbanding of the Special Service Unit (SSU) which, he says, greatly contained terror gangs by either killing them or running them out of town.

The senior officer who sought anonymity said although he supports a responsible police force which should at all times be kept in check, it should also be allowed to contain the spate of crimes that have left many Kenyans vulnerable.

Elsewhere, a senior officer based at Kamukunji Police Station, Nairobi, called on the police service to allow deployment of more un-uniformed officers into the streets of Nairobi since they have helped a great deal in quelling the crimes.

"With the new IG coming and the change of guard at DCI, we hope for the best, but the only way out is having undercover officers in the streets. The crime rate will descend since the thugs are not sure of who is who,' he said.

The disbanded SSU unit comprised officers drawn from different units that included; General Service Unit (GSU), Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the general duty personnel.

The SSU took over from the Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) after the immediate former DCI boss George Kinoti reorganized it in mid-2019.

The elite squad was on October 15 disbanded following a directive from the acting Inspector General of Police Noor Gabow after revelations in an ongoing probe into the missing of two Indians and their driver.

Nine officers drawn from the group were arrested and prosecuted.