HOW TO RECOVER STOLEN ITEMS WITH THE HELP OF UGANDA POLICE FORCE

The man returned with a woman dressed in a long floral skirt and a matching blouse. His car was still parked in the same spot it had been when the thieves had vandalized it an hour earlier. The thieves had broken the lock of the Driver’s door using a screw driver or a similar tool.  The woman stepped back from the car and assumed an awkward posture that slightly bent her knees forward and her upper body backwards; she was taking photos of the keyhole using an outdated-keypad-buttoned-phone. There were visible fingerprints on the glass of the Driver’s door and on the upholstery of the car’s interior.

After an elaborate examination of the car that did not involve finger print analysis, they walked to the nearby Mobile-Money establishment (a wooden desk under an outdoor Umbrella: both branded with the yellow and red colours of MTN and Airtel). The man suspected the two women seated behind the desk had witnessed the theft because his Pearl White Primeo had been parked adjacent to their establishment and in close proximity: – the door that had been vandalized had been facing them.

The woman in the floral attire did not have to introduce herself because she is a known police officer stationed at a Police Booth within the neighbouring area. The two Mobile-Money women had their story straight and it was not going to change. According to them no person had been seen breaking into the car and picking a bag. In fact they had no idea what the contents of the bag were.

“You must have seen the thieves”

Aaa Aaa aaa, Officer! Munange me I was busy with customers. I dint not see any thieves,” said the brown woman who maintained no eye contact and busied herself with a 6-inch touch screen phone while she spoke.

“But the car was parked right there”, the officer pointed at the Primeo. “ You want to say the thief came to the Driver’s door, broke the lock, entered the car, searched it, picked a bag and left and you did not see anything?”

“Madamu! Nze Nvako. Me I do Mobile Money. I am not a security guard. Shiyaaa! Uhmmm! Kyoka this Woman! You think you can threaten me because you are a Police Officer ?,” as she blubbered parts of her face along the laugh lines and the brow would crease into a spiteful gnarl.

The man was getting irritable, he said that he was parked there for a short while and when the car alarm went off he responded immediately but when he checked inside the car the bag was missing. Everything had happened in less than two minutes- those women had obviously seen the thieves especially since the car alarm had gone “eeeoooeeeooo”.

The women laughed at the man imitating the sound of the alarm. The second woman who had only been making complimentary remarks in Luganda now felt confident to take the floor.

“Olaba officer, wano buli kaseera abbabi bbaba zi side-mirrors naye… she ranted on in her high pitched voice. The man was not conversant with the Luganda language or her high pitched squeal for that matter.

“Arrest them- arrest them officer- they are just refusing to talk”, the man was growing impatient with the drudgery of this so-called interrogation.

The English speaking woman was not happy to hear this. She told the officer- quite rudely- that it was not her [the woman’s] job to stop thieves or report them. She had committed no crime and if the officer wanted to arrest her, she [the officer] should go ahead and do it-quickly.

“Get in the car”, the officer was not happy with the reverence she was receiving especially from the brown woman.

“Eh eh! Uhm. Kyoka officer. Me I have not committed any crime”, said the brown woman in a nonchalant tone.

“I said get in the car”  the officer repeated; this time gripping the brown woman’s hand tightly and dragging her roughly towards the man’s car.

The man took his cue from the Officer and engaged the child safety lock immediately the officer had succeeded in pushing the brown woman into the back seats of his Primeo.

If you have been a victim of vehicle vandalism, snatch-and-grab thefts or pick pocketing and you have attempted a recovery of the stolen items by engaging the Uganda Police Force; you are probably a victim of – Police’s insufficient response capabilities, Police’s insufficient presence –  and you have probably witnessed the public’s disdainful attitude towards police investigation.

In Financial Year 2015/16 Police reported a crime rate reduction from 298 the previous year to 296. In the 365 days that make a year, Police managed to save 2 lucky Ugandans and we now have 296 victims of crime in every 100,000 people.  The improvement is remarkable! It gives me great confidence in the Force especially since the ratio of police to Ugandan people stands at 1:764 – not far from the recommended international standard of 1:500.

Sometimes  after tedious calculations we may watch TV to relax . We may marvel at how foolish some criminals are when they leave a crime scene before rubbing fingerprints off doors or glass- ‘you only do that in Uganda’, we may say. But surely we cannot expect Uganda to match the sophistication of Investigative TV Series and so Ugandan Police should be commended for the failure to incorporate finger-print analysis in the investigations . Perhaps one is not to despair since the National Budget Framework Paper promises that one of the planned actions in financial year 2017/18 includes acquiring state of the art equipment to enhance scientific crime management.

My confidence in the Uganda Police’s abilities to investigate or to secure life and property is hinged to rusty archaic investigative practices.  The sister security agencies (particularly the Directorate of Government Analytical Labaratory and the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Directorate) that should assist the Police in its role are similarly grappling with inadequate forensic tools to investigate crime yet criminals are advancing in technology that helps them evade arrests and prosecution.

In FY 2015/16 Police services were the biggest expenditure under the Justice Law and Order Sector spending over UGX 600Bn but Uganda Police only managed to achieve 57% of its output targets.  This makes me doubt that Police has a resource shortcoming and in fact Police services had the second highest unspent balance of UGX. 10Bn. More and more Ugandans would rather engage private investigators because they do not believe in the integrity and capability of Uganda Police; those who cannot afford such an option choose to let the crime go unreported (lest they spend money transporting the Police to the scene of crime and providing the almost mandatory kitu kigodo).

My Nation’s Police force may have failed at professionalizing and modernizing their services but I choose not to despair. It may however be too late to tell the Primeo- driving man in the story I narrated to you- not to despair.

The man chauffeured the Police officer and the brown woman to the Police Booth (a metallic container with the words “DONATED BY xxx PAINTS LIMITED” lustrously written on its walls.

The brown woman was friends to the Officer in Charge – it was discovered- and the interrogation that followed was a mere flirtatious exchange between the two. The arresting Officer said it was unlikely the bag and its contents (an iPhone 6 and UGX.7,000,000) would ever be recovered, the case would drag and the man would end up spending even more money pursuing it. She therefore requested for the man’s mobile number- in case anything came up about the case- and some ‘airtime’ for herself and the OC- of course. Forty thousand Shillings was offered to the police woman and goodbyes were exchanged.

Since that day; Christmas trees were decorated – fireworks lit up the sky at midnight – valentines passed and roses were exchanged between lovers – but the man has never received the promised phone call.

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