CCTV cameras will resolve complex murder, disappearance and execution cases
By Hudson Gumbihi | September 5th 2021
There was excitement when the Integrated Command, Control and Communications Centre (IC3) was launched at Jogoo House. Senior police commanders led by former Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet were oozing confidence, happy that they had found a solution to the insecurity headache. CCTV technology was the answer.
By installing CCTV cameras, it was anticipated crime and traffic offences would drastically go down since offenders would have no place to hide anymore. But as it is turned out, crime never climbed down and traffic chaos persists as lawbreakers make mincemeat of the surveillance cameras installed in Central Business District (CBD) and on key roads.
Until recently, the CBD had been taken over by marauding gangs that preyed on pedestrians and motorists, many of who have lost money and valuables to the hoodlums ready to cause harm at the slightest provocation. Yet the multi-million shilling IC3 project implemented by communications provider Safaricom was to safeguard loss of lives and property. But six years later, many people have lost their property and lives to criminal gangs roaming scot-free.
The command centre was to enable controllers to enable monitor areas under surveillance, detect any security incident, help direct response as well as monitor the flow of people and traffic. Though the IC3 is functional, there is a feeling it has not achieved the desired goal. The inefficiency is being blamed on poor coordination between police controllers and their colleagues on the ground.
“The cameras are only useful in compiling evidence after the action; real-time action by the teams in the field after detection of commission of a crime is lacking. The ineffectiveness and inefficiency explain why crime refuses to go down even after we invested heavily in technology,” said a former police officer.
No wonder with this lapse, criminals had taken over the city, harassing, terrorising, robbing and maiming people prompting a public outcry.
The gangs had caused so much fear that walking on the streets was becoming a nightmare. The audacity of the criminals left many wondering whether law enforcement had been abandoned.
It was almost routine for muggers to attack and walk away casually. The presence of crowds, police officers, city askaris or CCTV cameras installed on some buildings did not scare them at all. In fact, some of the brazen crimes are committed in front of CCTV cameras. A sustained crackdown against some of the criminals has since seen a return to normalcy.
Over the past few weeks, sanity seems to have prevailed, maybe temporarily as the gangs re-strategise after being outwitted following a sustained crackdown after reinforcement of armed officers who now patrol streets. “The streets are now safe, we have managed to weed out the criminal elements who were the source of insecurity,” says Central Sub County Police Commander (SCPC) Adamson Bungei who was deployed to town with a brief from Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to ensure the CBD is safe.
Not fooled by the false lull, there is a proposal to have CCTV cameras cover every corner of the city.
Kabiro MCA Clarence Munga wants a law making it mandatory for all commercial and residential buildings installed with cameras.
In a notice of motion that requires majority support from MCAs, apart from all buildings, the CCTV cameras will be fixed in informal settlements and open areas, should the motion become law.
Munga’s motion is informed by the fact that most streets have either inadequate or dysfunctional cameras. According to the MCA, criminals are taking advantage of this security lapse.
“The recent months have witnessed a marked increase in the number of insecurity incidents across the country and more so Nairobi County,” says Munga.
The motion has already been brought on the floor of the County Assembly. It is incumbent on the Kabiro MCA to lobby his colleagues to support and endorse it into law. Munga says for the capital city to transit into a 24-hour economy, security is paramount. And one way of achieving this is by investing in surveillance cameras.
Away from the city centre, crime is part of life in informal settlements where police patrols, especially during the night, are irregular. The only time officers arrive is when collecting bribes from bar operators and dealers in illicit brews. “The importance of CCTVs in the world today cannot be gainsaid, surveillance cameras can deter potential criminals with videos and footages helping law enforcers to investigate and later use as evidence such material during prosecution,” says Munga.
In rooting to have cameras everywhere, the MCA observes existing ones are mainly installed inside buildings while those outside are meant to monitor traffic on the roads. Besides creating awareness, surveillance cameras make potential offenders know that they are being monitored and that the possibility of them being apprehended is high.
If well-managed by well-trained staff, the cameras are cost-effective tools for deterrence and recording real-time crimes.
Charles Kandege, a specialist in electronic security, says it is a pity that Kenya has been slow in embracing surveillance cameras for recording everything that happens around where a human beings live – be it at home, road, office or workplace.
"With good CCTV cameras and backup systems, it is possible to capture and store images for two months. This notion that previous images are automatically erased to create space for fresh footage is just an excuse,” says Kandege, the general manager, Crown Force Security Services Ltd.
Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) in collaboration with Safaricom rolled out a CCTV initiative in Ngei Phase Two in Langata on September 29, 2018. The estate was installed with cameras to boost surveillance. Looking back, KARA’s chief executive officer Henry Ochieng says security in the area has since improved. He says it was a pilot project whose outcome is a success story that should be replicated across the city.
Terming it timely, Ochieng says the use of CCTVs can have a deterrence effect hence leading to an improvement of security.
“In principle, it is a good idea that needs the full support of all residents who normally bear the brunt of insecurity. It is better leveraging technology to deal with insecurity challenges,” says Ochieng.
Should Munga’s motion sail through, crime management will become easier. Apart from seeking to address general insecurity, the CCTV proposal comes at no better time when the country is witnessing cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Over the past few months, people have been kidnapped or picked on the streets or roads before their bodies are found dumped either in rivers or forests. Perhaps with the aid of cameras, the faces of the perpetrators could have been unmasked, speeding up investigations. most of the murders remain unresolved.
Equally, with clues from surveillance cameras, detectives pursuing cases of people reported missing could have made progression. Like wisps of smoke, Daston Mwitiki, Benson Njau Kayai, Mwenda Mbijiwe and his friend Mathew Muhatia Namasaka just vanished and are yet to be found.
Businessman Mwitiki, Security consultant Mbijiwe still missing
It is 16 months since businessman Mwitiki, 38, disappeared. The licensed gun holder vanished on March 11 last year.
Although his family has viewed bodies in nearly all the mortuaries, they have not found the 38-year-old. Hospital wards, too, have yielded no answers. His unlocked Land Rover Discovery was found abandoned in a coffee plantation in Juja.
Investigators familiar with the case say they are treating the matter as that of a missing person. So far, nothing much has come out of their investigations.
It is now three months since security consultant Mbijiwe disappeared. He was in the company of Muhatia, 49, his friend-cum-driver, when they went missing on June 12.
At the time of their disappearance, Mbijiwe was travelling to his rural home. He never reached his destination and his whereabouts and that of Muhatia remain unknown to date. According to Muhatia’s family, the two constantly communicated and were together at one point.
It has been difficult establishing what transpired since the vehicles the two were using were found abandoned in different places.
Mbijiwe’s hired Toyota Fielder was found vandalised and abandoned in a coffee plantation in Kiambu while that of Muhatia, also leased, was found intact on Mai Mahiu Road. The two men disappeared four months after city lawyer Benson Njau Kayai, 54, went off the radar in February while driving a hired vehicle on Muhoho Avenue in South C. He was yanked out of the vehicle and bundled into another vehicle, which spirited him away to an unknown place.
“I strongly believe it could be different story had there been enough cameras; either these people could not have disappeared or while relying on CCTVs, it could have been easier to retrace their last movements,” says Kandege.
Use of technology can help police crack serious crimes like murder and abductions, says Isaac Andabwa, secretary general of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU) whose members, in most circumstances, are the first line of defence.
The former KK Security guard attached to the American Embassy in Nairobi says use of cameras is a substitute for old-fashioned police surveillance that heavily relied on beat patrols.
“It is no longer fashionable to continue depending on physical security alone. Societies have grown in terms of development and populations, necessitating the need to blend physical policing and technology,” says Andabwa.
In jurisdictions where cameras are put into proper use, suspects still roaming free after committing crimes, have been caught after investigators sifted through video images.
Andabwa says the same practice can be applied in Kenya where many people are walking scot-free due to lack of evidence.
“Security guards witness so many bad things happenings around them but they cannot record such activities. That why I fully support installation of public surveillance cameras. My concern, however, is efficiency of the cameras and integrity of the personnel monitoring them,” he says.
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