Epidemic of unreported crimes in Kenya worrying

NAIROBI: Highly publicised matters of state security and terrorism have captured the attention of most Kenyans, but there is another less published and silent ongoing phenomena which is crippling economic activity and instilling waves of fear among the citizenry.

Last week, the Chief Justice publicly acknowledged the emergence of criminal gangs and dwelt on setting up of the International Organised Crimes Division (IOCD) by the Judiciary and undisclosed 'other partners'. "The IOCD is a Kenyan solution to a local problem. Over many years, we have Kenyans who, through organised political violence and organised crime, have undermined our society. A perfect word has been used to describe these people – 'termites'," he said.

"The IOCD promises to borrow smart and best practices from the world over to try these cases. In a real sense, this is implementing the Constitutional imperative: to domesticate international law in ways that are useful in terms of substantive law." But before any crime is investigated and prosecuted there is, of necessity, the obvious and fundamental obligation on the aggrieved individual or body to report the alleged crime, and therein lies the greatest dilemma in the fight against crime.

Under the Statistics Act, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics every year publishes facts and figures. The 2014 publication states that crime has reduced by about 10 per cent. Is this a true reflection bearing in mind the wave of crimes which go unreported and therefore unaddressed by the investigative, prosecutorial or judicial agencies?

There are literally hundreds of armed hold-ups and robberies in Nairobi and other parts of the country, on the streets, highways and the Central Business District, which are not reported by the victims. Most feel it is just not worth reporting. It is also alleged that in a majority of the armed robberies, police are involved and working in collusion with the criminals. Other unreported crimes are those involving the police, such as extra-judicial killings, cases of police brutality and summary execution of criminals.

The same position prevails in the cases of sexual offences, where the victims and their families do not report cases due to the very nature of the offences which can and does stigmatise the victim. But the biggest and most profound culprits of hiding criminal activities of massive and unfathomed scale takes place by bankers and other corporate bodies who, for the sake of their corporate image, condone white-collar crimes. The prevalence of economic crimes in Kenya it is acknowledged is the second highest in Africa just behind South Africa.

Evidence of documented hold-ups – in the form of CCTV footage - in the banking halls, ATMs and around banks are not forwarded to the police by some high flying and so called reputable banks, and the bewildered, shocked and traumatised victims are left to fend for themselves in generally most confused state.

And then come the in-house banking scams. It is an acknowledged reality within the banking industry that colossal and mammoth frauds, mostly related with cyber-crimes, take place and the banks do not report or even pursue the criminals.

Recently, a local bank lost close to Sh200,000,000 and when the culprits were discovered, the bank struck a deal with the offenders to refund part of the loot. No report to the police, no investigations, no punishment of the offenders! In the daily lives of Kenyans, shopping bags, handbags and jewellery are snatched, stealing of mobile phones and computers is so common that citizens just do not consider reporting the crime. The end result is that criminals have no fear of being apprehended which only encourages the so called 'petty criminals' to qualify to sophisticated criminal conduct because the risk of being apprehended and punished is virtually non-existent.

The way forward, it would appear, is to educate the citizens. It must be made out that reporting a crime - any crime, big or small, embarrassing or otherwise - is every citizen's bounden duty. Secondly, reporting of crime must be made a 'user-friendly' system. If my watch, for example, is snatched at knife-point or gunpoint or by threats, is it worth my while spending hours making statements, knowing too well that the police have better things to do, and that the culprits may well never be traced. The other side of the scale is that a criminal has gone scot-free.

Do the police have the capacity to investigate every crime? That is the next question. The fact remains it is the duty and obligation of the police to investigate a crime once reported, however petty.

Soaring crime is seen in the day-to-day lives of Kenyans when every household has 'askaris', the well-to-do barricade their houses and places of work with high-end security apparatus.

Will Kenya ever have state security where a householder can leave his abode without locking, a young lady can have a walk in the town at midnight without fear of being molested and when one can drive without fear of their side mirrors and lights being ripped off their cars?