How thieves unlock, steal cars

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KAMPALA. Theft of motor vehicles has reached epidemic proportions countrywide and most victims never recover their cars.
Of the average of five cars stolen in the country daily, three are from Kampala Metropolitan area, according to police reports. Police say car thefts are under-reported, which means the figure could be much higher than is portrayed.
The recovery of stolen vehicles is still a big challenge to security and law enforcement agencies, according to Mr Emilian Kayima, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesman.
“Not less than three cars are stolen a day in Kampala. Most cases are a result of thefts other than robbery,” he said.
The last police crime and traffic safety report released in 2014, shows that 1,463 cars were stolen, but police investigated only 641 cases.

In the same year, 79 cars were taken through robbery. Police investigated half of the cases.
Mr Kayima said even though a few suspects are arrested and prosecuted, a big number is not convicted.
“Once the car theft victims have gotten their cars back, they become unwilling to testify in court. Without their testimonies, the court dismisses the cases or acquits the accused. The criminals take that as a lesson. When they are released, they just improve on their illegal skills and avoid pitfalls that had led them to jail. So you get hardened criminals on the streets,” Mr Kayima observed.
The high cases of unrecovered stolen cars have become a motivator to the criminals to continue with the crime.

How the thieves do it
Theft of a car isn’t a one-man scheme. Stealing one car often involves at least seven people or groups each assigned a specific role.

Some of the tools that the car thieves use in

Some of the tools that the car thieves use in their trade.

A top officer in the Directorate of Crime Intelligence, who takes part in tracking and analysing car thefts, said spotters are vital in the execution of the thefts, but car owners never pay attention to them.
The police officer said the spotters usually operate at washing bays and motorcycle stages. He said guards are also involved.
The spotters, the officer said, are paid between Shs30,000 and Shs100,000 per successful car theft. Some spotters have motorcycles which they use to trail the target motorists for some time.

Upon reaching the target car, the intelligence officer further revealed that the spotters inform the sponsor, who sends two other people, one to break the car door lock and another to drive it away.
For the old Japanese vehicles, the criminal uses a locally made sharp metallic object, which he enters into the car door lock and exerts force up and down. The thieves have codenamed the metallic object Luso, a Luganda word meaning “master knife”.
Two suspects in car plunder held at the Directorate of Crime Intelligence demonstrated the trick on a Toyota Ipsum and a Toyota Noah vehicles. They applied the Luso and the car door locks opened in seconds.

“I am given Shs200,000 for opening the door,” one suspect confessed, but said he does not drive away the stolen car. That role is done by another person.
“The driver gets into the car and uses the same Luso to ignite the car before driving it away to a hideout,” the suspect confessed.
He explained that the stolen car is taken to a garage where it is kept for days until the police have given up the search.
Police detectives established that the thieves replace the car door and ignition locks, which have been destroyed by the Luso.
Mr Kayima said car thieves have adopted the new method of first holding stolen cars in garages because they have learnt that police sends messages to all units whenever a car is stolen, which makes it easy to recover while being driven on the highway.

Stolen cars hidden first
Mr James Mubi, the Busoga East police region spokesman, who recently said several people had been arrested while selling stolen cars in the area, explained that the hired person drives the car to a hideout, where several alterations are made on the number plates and other unique parts.
Mr Mubi said each driver is paid Shs300,000 for their services.
Stolen cars destined for neighbouring countries are handed over to another team across the border.
For stolen cars which are to be sold within Uganda, the driver hands them over to local dealers in rural areas to sell them to unsuspecting buyers.

According to a victim of these car thefts, Mr Peter Malish, a South Sudan national, his car registration number SSD 748C Toyota Land Cruiser was stolen from the parking yard in Bunamwaya on Entebbe Road in Wakiso District.
“I came back when it had been driven away. The good thing it had a tracker and I could monitor it on GPS on my phone. I informed police, telling them the movements and the speed at which the suspects were driving it,” Malish said.
Using his phone, Mr Malish sent a message to the tracking system in the car that blocked fuel supply to the engine when the vehicle had reached Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road near Old Kampala.
The thieves drove up to Kawempe when the car engine stopped.
At midnight, officers from Kawempe Police Station following the GPS system, moved to where the car was and arrested four suspects, including two mechanics who had been brought in to solve the suspected mechanical fault.
By the time the car broke down, the thieves had already changed its registration number plates to UAN 076V to elude police detection or surveillance.

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