Motorists push their way in a road near Muthurwa market
  • Pickpocketing is one of the most notorious petty crimes
  • Pickpockets are known to have feather-smooth fingers that they combine with human psychology to commit their petty crimes
  • They have a number of tricks including asking a passenger to open the window or forcing them to open the window by kushuta

Pickpockets consider themselves the ‘elite’ of petty crime. They combine human psychology and skills, spurred on by itchy fingers.

The annoying thing is that they don’t drug you or buy you excess alcohol to execute their tricks. It’s just feather-smooth fingers when you’re gaping at some butt outside the window. And nowhere do their prowess come in full force than inside matatus and buses, where they target cash and valuables like phones. Next time you hop into that sexy nganya or rickety matatu beware of these 10 tricks by pickpockets.

1. Kushuta!

 This is the latest trick in town. For obvious reasons, the person seated next to you who is one of them as you wait for matatu ya Kayole kujaa, breaks the wind.

Since you cannot ‘swallow’ the gas, you are forced to open the window...and that’s when his accomplice grabs your phone na kupotelea Muthurwa!

2. Shukisha hapo mbele

 Almost similar to number 1 above, this is when a pickpocket pretends to rise as if alighting at the next stop, but as you give way, he gets the chance to chomoa your phone from your pocket. It is so feather touch you won’t feel a thing!

3. Fungua dirisha

 Unlike your home or office where you will enjoy fresh air, using public means is fraught with problems, including mixing with those exuding a mixture of sweat and stale sukuma wiki.

 And so when they pretend to be affected by ‘hali ya weather’ and request “fungua dirisha kidogo,” your struggle to push that stubborn glass open provides an opportunity to act.

4. Nisaidie hizo coins

 Next time someone drops coins inside a matatu just pretend you’re dozing. The trick is to ask you,  “Nisaidie hizo coins,” and woe unto you if you bend over as that’s when your expensive phone will become ‘was.’

5. Funga mshipi

Pickpockets have mastered the art of scaring passengers to buckle up, claiming there is an ‘operation’ and as passengers funga mshipi, their itchy fingers get busy ‘walking’ inside your pockets.

6. Shukeni haraka

 Pickpockets take advantage of passengers whom they harakisha to alight at the end of the journey, claiming traffic cops are about to pounce and “stage ni mwisho shukeni haraka tafadhali!” It is during the commotion to alight that they take advantage since your attention has been diverted.   

 7. Niitie huyo jamaa 

 Unless the person seated next to you and carrying huge envelope is your brother, then you are most likely seated next to a pickpocket. You will soon confirm this when an envelope is placed across your lap with the request, “Niitie huyo jamaa hapo mbele,” and thus exposing yourself.

Alternatively, the bahasha could be used to cover part of your pocket with the phone which is fished out at road bumps!

 8. Upepo ya dirisha

This happens mostly when the pickpockets hop into a matatu that is not full. Their mission is simple; shifting from one seat to another claiming, “Nataka kukaa karibu na dirisha” and in the process they pinch your pocket or purse during the ‘transfer’ from seats.

 9. Kuna Wi-Fi

 Pickpockets know young people love free Wi-Fi for checking Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram posts, and telling you to toa simu kuna free Wi-Fi will see the eager ones unleashing their pricey phones, giving them a chance to size up the most expensive to pinch.

 10. Chungeni mifuko

If you want to know if someone has money scare them to check their pockets…well pickpockets jokingly use this trick to know the loaded  before embarking on a serious mission.