Why Kenya’s most wanted gangs are hiding in Nyeri

Slums in Nyeri have turned into hideouts for some of the country’s most wanted criminals, police have revealed.

Witemere, Kiawara, Ngangarithi, Kangemi and Majengo slums have been classified as some of the favourite areas for armed criminals, most of them on police watch lists for criminal activities in parts of Nairobi and the central region.

A number of estates around Nyeri town, including Kamakwa and Skuta, have also been pointed out as hideouts for the criminals.

According to police sources, armed criminals operating in Nairobi and Kiambu counties usually escape to parts of Nyeri when police tighten the noose on armed criminals in the areas.

A source, who spoke to Kenya’s Daily Nation on condition of anonymity, said that most of them are natives of Nyeri and were inducted into crime by local gangs.

“Most of the profiled criminals come from Nyeri. They operate in Nairobi and when they realize they are about to be caught or when police operations are heightened, they run to these slums to lie low,” said the source, who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Poor accessibility and the slum life give the criminals an advantage over detectives and time to escape when police close in on them.

The divisional commanding officer in charge of Nyeri Central, Masai Makau, told theNation that the criminals have recruited lookouts and devised modes of communication that they use to alert them of the presence of police officers in the area.

They are said to hire even street children to act as spies on police activities or the presence of unfamiliar faces.

“They are very fast in communicating and whenever an unfamiliar face is spotted they will vanish. They have lookouts everywhere,” said Mr Makau.

So good are the lookouts that they are able to spot even plain-clothes detectives, a tactic police say criminals have acquired by identifying slum dwellers.

“They know the people they live around so any unfamiliar face automatically raises a red flag,” said the area OCPD.

On four separate occasions last month, three of the most wanted gun-wielding criminals managed to escape the grasp of police in operations organised by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

On each occasion, they escaped through the slums, where they know police will not engage them in a gunfight.

“Police officers cannot continue firing live bullets in a densely habited area because innocent people could get injured in the shootout. The criminals know this and they try to use it to their advantage,” said Mr Makau.

The many slums around Nyeri town, according to police, hinder police in their efforts to apprehend the suspects.

“There are so many scattered slums in Nyeri [and this] makes policing quite challenging because community policing in those areas is rather inactive,” Mr Makau said.

Police have warned that the criminals are heavily armed and dangerous but maintained that efforts to apprehend them are under way.