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BE WARNED! Car thieves on the loose, targeting specific car brands.

Some of the popular car models in Kenya.
Every day, Kenyans wake up to the news of a stolen car, either from a parking bay, a hotel or the driver being physically robbed by carjackers.

If we can base our analysis of these reports, we can authoritatively say that these car thieves do not just steal any car but there is a trend that shows that certain brands of vehicles are a target due to their high demand in the Kenyan market.

For instance, your vehicle is most likely to be stolen if it is white, a Toyota or a station wagon. Vehicles whose value is below Sh. 1 million are also likely to fall prey to theft more frequently than those priced above Sh. 1 million.

A survey by the Association of Kenya Insurers (AKI) revealed that out of the 406 cars reported stolen to the insurers, 71% were a make of the Toyota brand, while 51% were white in colour. Silver, black, blue and grey vehicles, in that order, also made it to the list of cars frequently stolen. 
Green, red, gold, pearl, purple, orange and maroon vehicles are the least targeted.

White cars fall an easy prey since they make the majority in Kenya, making them hard to trace in case of reported loss. White cars are preferred by many due to their relatively lower prices, ease of repainting and their slow interior heating under hot weather conditions.

The Toyota model is also exposed due to the easy sale of its spare parts and given that many models share the parts.

Car hire.

Most of the vehicles targeted are ‘self-drive’ car hire vehicles which are reported missing only three or four days after they have been taken. By then, the vehicle may either have been smuggled into a neighbouring country or cannibalised.

Car thieves are now using fake national identification cards to hire the vehicles. As a precaution, most car hire firms install GPS tracking devices to monitor the movement of their vehicles wherever they are. Some are now asking their clients to leave their fingerprints when they want to hire a self-driven vehicle.

Taxi drivers are another soft targets for these car thieves. They pose as clients and later hold drivers of hired vehicles hostage, drug them or tie them up before driving off with the vehicles.

Early this month, a taxi driver in Ruiru town was hired by two middle-aged women to ferry them to Gatong’ora area to ‘inspect the progress of their house that was still under construction’.

Upon reaching the site, the four other men emerged from the incomplete building and carjacked the victim. As they were driving him away in his Toyota Fielder registration KCA….., the women attempted to strangle him from behind but after a while he was able to free himself and jump out of the speeding car.

Fortunately for him, two of the car tires burst due to the rough road and attempts for the thieves to escape with the car were thwarted.

However, the men managed to escape and the women accosted by the members of public. They were arrested and taken to court and are currently out on a sh. 2million bond awaiting hearing on 30th October 2017.

There was this other vehicle, a Toyota Corolla AE110 taxi that was hired by two men who wanted to be driven to Nairobi’s posh Runda estate at about 9pm. The two men turned out to be carjackers and injected the driver with a knock-out drug before driving to Limuru forest, where he was tied to a tree and abandoned.

When he regained consciousness at about 3am, he informed Track It, who traced the vehicle to the Cheptiret area in Eldoret, where the vehicle was found parked.

Another taxi driver was also tied up in Runda by two car thieves who hired him the same night from the National Social Security Fund offices in Upper Hill area. The vehicle was recovered on Nairobi’s Juja Road.

Other than taxis, car thieves are targeting personal car owners at popular car parks, malls and hotels. They will track their victim, understand their schedule then they will wait for a day when the victim parks the car for a long time, steal it and drive as fast as possible to the neighbouring counties.

Sophisticated thieves.

Most victims of stolen motor vehicles will spend two hours running around looking for who can help them. By the time they inform the police, record the statement and other bureaucracies to send a general request to intercept the stolen car, the criminals have already driven away to their hideouts.

Car thieves have become technically sophisticated and usually work as a team to pull off the heist. It is also believed that some members of this car syndicate are based in Mombasa from where they trail the cars as they are being driven to upcountry then communicate its details to their accomplishes based elsewhere across the country.

Armed with the registration number and number of passengers on board, the thieves then wait for the car and may cause an ‘accident’ just to make the driver stop and come out of the vehicle to assess the damage. And with that, you are trapped.

Others will pretend to be potential buyers or brokers, ask you to keep the car for them and promising to come and collect it, say after one or two days. Having gotten all the details of the vehicle and probably about you, they strike when you least expect it and POOF! Your car is gone.

Re-branding and formalising.

When a car is stolen, it is taken to the garage, repainted with a different colour and the engine and chassis number altered before giving it a different number plate. It is usually very difficult to detect a stolen car because by the time they put it on the road, they have formalised everything. The car will appear to be in the rightful names of the owner

Given the fact that car thieves study their victims for a very long time, when the thieves get to know that their victims have put in all their efforts and resources to recover their vehicles, they will never put the car back on the road. 

Some of these car thieves genuinely buy wreckages of vehicles that that have been involved in accidents and acquired number plates and documentation of the wreckage. They then change ownership of the car officially and even pay taxes. 

After that, they will track a vehicle of the same make with that of the wreckage and steal it. The stolen car is taken to the garage where they erase the original chassis and engine numbers, which they then replace with those of the wreckage they bought. They also spray it with a new colour and give it a number plate of the wreckage. It will look so different from the one the owner knows. 

After officialising the documents, they sell it to another person who will never know that it was stolen. The owner will also never identify it on the road. Police will also fail to detect it unless a major check is done

Biggest market.

Otherwise, the biggest market for stolen cars is in the spare parts shops in local garages and in neighbouring countries. Once stolen, the vehicle will be dismantled and parts sold to spare parts shops. 

Most of these parts will be sent to places where it is unlikely that the owner of the vehicle will never travel or operate. For instance, if the vehicle is stolen in Thika, the spare parts will be sold in Kakamega or in remote garages in Nairobi. Some of the dismantled vehicles are taken to neighbouring countries in form of spare parts.

Most vehicles that targeted for spare parts are old models because their spare parts on the market are rare which makes them high on demand and expensive thus profitable for the thieves.

Once a stolen vehicle cross the border, there is little chance for recovery unless it is intercepted within 24 hours. This is because the vehicles are stripped and checked for any tracking device before they are sold to prospective buyers

The car thieves hire trained ‘experts’ who, according to research, are paid one-third of the value of the vehicle to find and disable the tracking device before it is disposed of. If the ‘experts’ find a tracking device on a vehicle, the dismantling charges are passed on to the buyer.

So, it’s good you are alert if you have that kind of vehicle that is a hot commodity for thieves out there. As much as possible, make sure that your car is less enticing to steal, install an alarm, use a lock device on the steering wheel, park in well-lit or busy areas and always lock your car.

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