Why your vehicle is no longer safe in the hands of police
To the public, a police station is as a secure place. To suspected criminals, it’s their first home when they are arrested until their fate is decided by a court. But one Carlos Kimathi knows otherwise.
On September 29, 2019, Mr Kimathi was arrested while driving a Toyota Lexus registration number KBX 656V in Kamulu area for traffic related offences. A police statement recorded at the station indicate that he had caused an accident and failed to stop.
On inspection, the vehicle insurance cover had been removed from the car. Police decided to keep the driver in lawful custody at KBC Police station in Matungulu Sub-County and prepare charges against him.
However, before he could be arraigned in court, he was informed that a police officer Simon Mathiu Linyiru had been arrested for vandalizing his car.
This incident is the most recent case where police officers have been accused of either vandalizing or stealing vehicles parked at police stations’ yards.
CASES ON THE RISE
Investigations reveal that many officers on duty end up being thrown under the bus as some suspects negotiate their way-out by convincing victims that if reported the matter will see them dismissed from the service. Some officers, though, are serving suspensions for being linked to similar cases.
Such cases are popping up at police stations countrywide as authorities across the country try to clamp down on the crime that many believe is a well-planned inside job.
For instance, a police constable Gabrielle Matata was early this year suspended after he was linked to the loss of a car from the Nyeri Police Station yard.
For weeks, it remained a puzzle how the car, which had been rendered as unroadworthy, left the station. The vehicle is owned by Kelvin Waithanji.
A police report at the station over the matter released in January, did not explain how the car was driven out of the station in the same condition as when the owner was arrested.
In Kenya, scenes of cars and motorbikes in police station yards have not only gotten the attention of Inspector General of police Hillary Mutyambai but also Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i.
The Interior CS issued a six-month grace period for owners whose cars are still parked inside police station yards to claim them failure to which the State will take possession.
“Many vehicles have been at the stations for months, some for years. The vehicles, especially those impounded ferrying contraband materials, shall be repurposed for service delivery and cleaning up of stations,” said Dr Matiang’i had said when he issued the directive.
In a Gazette Notice published on February 1, seven auctioneers said they would dispose off the vehicles in Gatundu, Huruma, Kasarani, Muthaiga and Machakos police stations.
The auctioneers have also put 80 owners of motorcycles on notice as the State disposes of piled unclaimed assets.
It’s one year since the directive was issued but police stations are still chocking with cars and bikes. Others like Thika police station auctioned more than 150 vehicles, motorcycles and scrap metal in July.
But even as the government directed the unclaimed vehicles to be auctioned, cases of some issing with others being vandalized at the police yards are on the rise.
Some officers argue that in some stations, vehicles at the yard have over-stayed for over 20 years and there was no sign that the owners would even claim them.
The National Police Act under section 63 states that it is okay to auction vehicles that are unclaimed within the police stations on condition that the police present an inventory of the unclaimed assets in court and the auction is allowed.
“If no owner establishes his claim to the property within twelve months from the date of the notice, the property may be sold in a manner directed by the magistrate,” the Act states.
Money from such auctions is put in the Consolidated Fund.
A car owner Kevin Jirani said that he was forced to purchase a type of insurance that stops officers or anyone from towing his car.
He said that the insurance cover does not allow anyone to tow a car from a given point to another and that is the duty of the insurance company.
“The advantage is that even if you are not aware that your car has been towed, the company calls and informs you that the vehicle was moved from one point to the other,” said Mr Jirani.
Security experts have in the past called on the police service to digitalize its services to avoid such incidents.
If the police service is fully digitalized, records of those who leave and enter a police station will be kept digitally.