Ways you are making yourself a robber’s walking target in Kenya
What are the simple things you unconsciously do when going about your day that make you a soft target for highway robbers, pick pockets, and white collar crime? No Idea? Well here are some of the things to avoid doing if you want to be safe from robbers;
- Driving while calling or sending text messages.Your mind cannot concentrate on three things: driving, texting and looking out for danger. And criminals can tell who can be easily robbed. You do not know it, but the thief is studying every move you make; how you’re driving, your car’s signals, your body language, and if you are paying attention to see if the gridlock is opening.
- For ladies, carrying your phone inside your handbag, while you let your handbag hang behind you. That’s like a big neon sign to a pickpocket, screaming, “WELCOME”. Always keep your handbag where you can see it, especially in crowded places.
- Criminals love and loathe showy people in equal measure. “Why do you have an expensive watch and a sleek phone while I get to go hungry?” is their way of thinking. And if you have these items on display, they also figure that you have more where that came from. So depending on which side of the town you are in, be careful what you flash around. Best get to your destination first.
- Not Sharpening your instincts. Note any suspicious people around you on the streets? Don’t ignore that feeling. Let them see that you have seen them. A split-second glance. This takes away the element of surprise that they rely on heavily and will go on to hunt easier prey. They wouldn’t want to attack you now because who knows if you are armed?
- The fairest game in traffic is the person seated next to an open car/ matatu window. If you are in a matatu and using your phone, while your window is open, know that a bunch of guys is plotting to get away with your phone, or bag. Mostly, it is carelessness on people’s part that makes them lose their valuables.
- Keep the earphones away. Criminals like distracted people because you won’t see them coming. And someone listening to music will most often realise that something is going down a little too late. Be aware. Look around and be purposeful. That could deter a thief.
- Criminals target people who may find it difficult to get away. So if they spot one lady in high heels and another in flats, they will definitely go for the one in high heels because she won’t get away from them. So, if carrying out your business in a crime-prone area, wear comfortable shoes and clothes that won’t impede your motion.
- Dark entrances. Add lighting to your home entrance. Robbers are more comfortable in dark environments because it is a security blanket. So yes, fix a light bulb at your doorstep and leave it on at night. It just might save you from burglars.
- If you see a bunch of smartly-dressed guys entering a public service vehicle or hanging out at a bus stop, and they are holding huge envelopes, folders, newspapers or handbags, hold your wares closer. Pickpockets rarely operate solo. They are like wolves; hunting and circling their prey in packs. Generally, most crimes are perpetrated by at least a couple of people. There is a ploy that is called in Sheng, “mtupe nimsanye” which means, “distract and rob”.
- Beware of gimmicks. They operate in groups. One shuffles in front of your car like they are sick, and if you make as if to help, or open your window to help, you are toast. Or one could point out that you have a puncture, or your car has some fault of some sort. But you are being set up for a handbag, phone or laptop snatch. The trick is to always stay mentally alert.
- If you are driving home and notice that you are being tailed by a motorcycle, drive past your house, make unexpected turns and note if they are still on your tail. If they are, drive to the nearest police station because the gate of one’s house is a trap that has led to many murders and violent robberies.
- In the streets, it can be a thin line between being a Good Samaritan and being a sucker. Never stop when a stranger approaches you. The time you have stopped is enough for conmen to play with your mind. The commonest trick is a stranger stopping you to ask for, say, directions, and then almost immediately, an accomplice comes and greets the stranger, “Long time, Man of God”. That lowers your guard and thence begins an experience you won’t want to retell.
- Get to Know your neighbour:I am a strong believer in the concept of “nyumba kumi”. It’s important to know your neighbours, especially when you move into a new neighbourhood. For example, if you’re intending to travel over the election week, your neighbours can watch over your property while you are away. Or perhaps consider a scenario where armed robbers have raided your house. Your neighbour is more likely to raise an alarm if they know you.
- Not Vetting your service providers. Nine times out of ten, an intruder is either someone known to you or someone who has been to your house or neighbourhood before. You’re more likely to be robbed by the person who collects your garbage every week than by an opportunistic burglar who happened to pick out your house. This includes service providers like house helps, gardeners, taxi drivers and so on. To prevent this, you should prefer one service provider as opposed to having a different one every week. For instance, if you arrive home late and have to take a taxi or bodaboda home, have one trusted rider instead of picking a different one every night. Or if you hire a help to do your laundry every weekend, ask a few friends or trusted neighbours for recommendations and work with a service provider that you have been referred to.