The 4 Common Types of Thieves Nairobians Need To Watch Out For
Lessons Learned From True Stories
Nairobi is beautiful, industrious, and almost never sleeps. By almost, I mean you are always guaranteed clubs, bus terminuses, and fast food joints will be open at any hour of the night. You might want to hold off buying normal stuff at the wee hours of the morning though. A first time visit to Nairobi will only show you the calm, serious side of Nairobi. It is not until you have experienced the ugly side of the city, that you begin to see the underhanded tricks people of bad intentions use to swindle or steal from innocent victims. Thank God, insecurity does not paralyze the city; it is under control.
However, anyone in Nairobi needs to know the common types of thieves roaming the city. There are gangs walking around our cities, robbing innocent citizens off their hard earned money. It is sometimes challenging to distinguish between people who are genuinely hustling for their future, and criminals walking around looking for easy targets. Criminals come in all forms; there are suave criminals, who can make you believe your sh. 100,000 investment today, will multiply and earn you a spot in the Top 100 medium sized businesses in Kenya in a matter of months, only to realize ulibebwa wana after phone calls go unanswered.
Then, there are those who open SACCOs and promise you a piece of the heavenly life in a soon-to-be high class estate and all they need is a meager deposit equivalent to a humble Vitz. You make the deposit believing you have a fully serviced plot next to the upcoming SGR only to realize the face of the company was a girl in her 20’s, but the mastermind has no face and is probably enjoying life in a posh estate with all your “plots.” Many Kenyans have fallen for people who have companies that exist in theory, but have no real presence. That’s a story for another day…
Aside from the smart schemes, there are petty criminals who take it by force. You will see these types of thieves masquerading as normal people but their behaviors stink like a warthog’s ass. You ought to know them and here are the different ways that such thieves will trick you to prove that they are innocent citizens going to hustle.
1. The common Pick-pockets
It is not unheard of to see pick-pockets everyday walking away with people’s wallets. This type of stinker will take advantage when you are boarding a matatu (bus). He or she will follow you and yank your wallet from your bag or back pocket. There are also notorious matatus where someone shouts “watu wachunge bag zao.” Translation – “take care of your bags”. 60% of the time, this is not a genuine call. I will tell you why. Such people want you to check where you will be protecting the most and once you do – most of the time by touching – they will know where you’ve stashed your money. Such thugs mostly target women; mostly because they have bags.
Note: You should be on the lookout even before someone tells you to. Don’t fall for such tricks.
2. The Unsightly Thieves Carrying Small Bag Packs
Have you ever seen a bunch of guys at the stage with small bag packs on their shoulders? Most of the time, such bags have string-like straps and the posers look like they work for the FBI will all their glaring gazes. Have you ever noticed them standing at different, strategic corners? The truth is, such guys might be thugs and they are all together; waiting to board a matatu and rob passengers of their money and their phones. Occasionally, some are usually in cahoots with the driver of the matatu.
Note: If you see this type of gang board the matatu you are in, just alight.
3. The Bulky Newspaper/envelope Guy
This is an old trick! You sit next to this poser and he or she keeps insisting on placing the newspaper next to you. Bad sign! Think twice; you might be a victim. This newspaper guy is usually waiting for you to concentrate on a story in the newspaper and that’s when the sticky fingers slide into your bag or the front pocket of your shirt. An envelope works the same, the x-ray kind of envelopes; only this time, the envelope will be covering both you and the thief. No one should be in your space.
After such a thief is done stealing from you, he usually alights at the next stage. You only realize much later that your valuables are gone. This is one reason why you should always have your bus fare ready with you in your hand. What if such a rascal steals from you and you had not paid fare? You do not want to see the drama the conductor will show you that day.
Note: If you see such kind of behavior, it is a distraction. Subtly save yourself all the drama by giving a gentle nudge or showing them you are not interested. If it is an envelope, clutch your pockets tightly.
4. The Roadside Scammer
Old women have been recruited into the thug life. It goes without saying, if an old woman comes to you and borrows your phone to use, never lend out your phone. A guy narrated how he was almost robbed and killed by mob justice. I will call him Rick for the purpose of this true story. This is what happened.
One day, an old woman, looking quite distraught, approached Rick asking him for a chance to use his phone. She said she wanted to call her son, and from appearances, she looked stranded. So, Rick lent his phone to her out of sympathy. Once she was done, she told him that her son was not picking. So, he decided to go his way and boarded a matatu and that’s where all the trouble began. Someone called him. Immediately, another person shouted and began saying that Rick stolen his phone, pointing to him.
In no time, people started beating Rick while the matatu was in motion. Luckily enough, a traffic officer saw what was happening and stopped the matatu. That’s when the police officer decided to switch off the phone and ask everyone to key in the password. The thugs keyed in the wrong password and Rick was proven innocent because he was able to switch on his phone back again. It seems like the old woman called an accomplice, and the accomplice followed Rick and boarded the matatu with him, with the intention of stealing his phone. Who knew how many accomplices were in the matatu that day. That day, a traffic police officer literally saved Rick from mob justice.
Other roadside stories could come in the form of someone who is stranded and needs fare back to Kileleshwa, (when the English clearly sounds like chepar-par sort of English) so he/she only needs 20 shillings from a few people and make it back home.
Other roadside scammers wait for you after you shop and drop your receipt from the supermarket. They then claim that you have stolen their shopping, and with the few actors they have around them, they cause a scene and you are beaten up and snatched of your shopping. Keep your receipts safe after visiting the supermarket.
Note: Don’t trust anybody in Nairobi, especially those that try to stop you on the road; you never know what one is planning. Stay safe!