Like in any other mega city, Nairobi’s crime-stars sometimes make it an unsafe place to live. Their invisible crime traps have left victims fuming with all sorts of regrets but the main targets are first-time visitors, i.e. tourists. Earlier this month, Nairobi was ranked number 10 on the list of Africa’s most violent or dangerous cities. It’s true, Nairobi being the regional center for business, technology, education, and politics, it attracts all sorts of crime-obsessed characters from both within and outside of Kenya.
In my first few weeks, it was hard to detect any wrongdoing happening in Nairobi and I didn’t realize that this city was a den of organized urban criminal activities. In fact, every first-time visitor may find it hard sense any danger due to the relative calm that’s typical of the city’s normal life but deep inside, there’s something worse. It’s when you have spent a few more days and penetrated into the city’s busiest core that you start tasting the cruelty of its gangsters. One day a mugger tried to snatch my phone, he was unsuccessful and one Kenyan friend exclaimed: “Hahaha! That’s how you’re being welcomed to Nairobi”!! Please, be on the on the lookout for these gangsters…
They are the most complicated criminals due to their invisible tactics of stealing people’s items. They frequently snatch laptops, smartphones, pieces of jewelry, cash, handbags, and other portable items. This can happen anywhere, even in the popular matatu buses. Inside, there are stickers to warn passengers that ‘Beware of pickpockets. Do not accept any form of help from a fellow passenger’. These conmen are most active during the rush hour time when buses are packed to the full. They’d take advantage of the commotion and grab anything whether it’s in your pockets or a tightly closed handbag.
Nairobi is also full of racketeers who disguise themselves as smart and decent people yet they aren’t. They come to u as being lost, orphans, disabled, homeless or business-like fellows and these I refer to them as wolves in sheep’s skin. Formally clad in office suits, they approach you in a tactical way to either ask for directions to a certain place or offering a quick but ‘profitable’ business deal. On a daily average, I encounter at least 10 masqueraders who I simply ignore and immediately walk off. When they realize that they’ve been unsuccessful with me, they’d then approach other people trying to catch their next target. I have read from the press who quote the victims on how these conmen execute their missions. You’ll encounter them everywhere, in the queues, restaurants, buses, elevators, walkways, etc, while pretending to be initiating conversations.
Today’s digital trend comes with all its own risks worsened by cyber scammers who solicit for quick loan and job applications. Such syndicates involve fake recruiting firms which ask you to first pay a certain amount of money to have your CV considered while others are fake online companies that offer tons of stay-at-home jobs and employment abroad, etc. Still, others have infiltrated online sales platforms like Jumia, OLX, and Kilimall where fake sellers and buyers dupe their targets and later swindle their money.
The on-spot gadget sellers
They approach you so fast and when you decline, they’d then disappear within a flash of a second! Why? B’se they’re trying to sell off stolen gadgets without being detected. This has happened to me very many times and I observed that they mostly target young people like me b’se of our crazed obsession with ‘cool’ gadgets. So they try convincing us to buy them straight away even without examining their functionality. They approach me while waving these gadgets in my face and then asking “How much do you have?” without even creating a sales rapport. I heard that some of them sell empty phone packages which the buyers find out after the seller has disappeared.
The armed robbers
Thank goodness I’ve never encountered them (I’d be scared to hell if one points a gun towards me) but they are the most frequent crimes in this chaotic metropolis. I have watched several video clips from CCTV cameras of both daylight and nighttime robberies in banks, supermarkets, mobile money agents (m-pesa), and along the streets. From these clips, I have noticed that Nairobi’s gun-wielding robbers are so notorious and wouldn’t mind shooting you dead if you dared to make any alarming scream. To us in the streets, they look casual but under their heavy jackets, these well-skilled robbers carry crude weapons. However, the chances of this scenario happening to everyone are fewer since they have their specific targets.
In my one year residence here, there has never been any terrorist attack in Nairobi though everyone is pretty much aware that tragedy may strike anytime. There used to be a lot of simultaneous terrorist attacks in Nairobi which intensified after the Kenyan Defence Forces entered Somalia to track down the Al-Shabaab militants. Many terrorist attacks have been made on embassies, buses, markets, shopping malls, churches and learning institutions. Vigilance is highly encouraged especially if you’re moving around crowded places within the city center. Most of these attacks are made by jihadists mainly from the volatile Somalia whose porous border with Kenya has made some areas in this country dangerous to travel to.
You may become a victim of any other well-organized and sophisticated crime apart from any that I’ve mentioned here, house break-ins included. How to avoid becoming a victim of any of these crimes goes down to each one of us individually. Before expecting the authorities to tighten up the urban security, first ensure that you are watchful of the people around you at all times and avoid unnecessarily being in risky places at riskier times. You might as well need to leave your valuables at home or keep them very far from the public eye to avoid attracting muggers. Nairobi is so marvelous when you make your personal safety your topmost priority.