The good news is that carjacking (theft of cars) is not a very common trend in Kigali and by extension, the country.
Where do you run and where do you hide with someone’s car in this town?
Yet a casual stroll through places like the notorious Talinyota Street – a booming open-air garage in Nyamirambo, should set one wondering where all those used car parts originate.
But car break-ins are something that millions of motorists all over the world fall victim to everyday, these being a little easier to execute (and get away with) as compared to making off with the car itself.
Fortunately, there are guarantees and precautionary measures to ward off that shifty-eyed young man posing as a parking attendant, but who is lusting over your car radio.
Like a bank robbery, car break-ins happen fast like lightning. So fast, you won’t know what hit you!
A little paranoia on your side is good for a start. Assume a “defensive driving” mentality and secretly view every other person as a potential thief looking for the first opportunity to slither into your car.
You don’t want to suffer a similar fate as actor Eliane Umuhire.
Umuhire is a recent victim of an attempted carjack which, ironically, she blames on a designated street parking attendant!
“I forgot to lock my car which was parked in front of Inzora Rooftop Café in Kacyiru. I had gone back to the car to raise the windows because of heavy rain and forgot to lock it. I was working from Inzora Café that afternoon, so when I went to my car at the end of the day, it was around 7pm. I found the KVCS parking guy just out of the car, the inside lights were on and the glove compartment was open,” she narrates her shocking ordeal.
“I asked the guy why my car lights were on and my glove box open, and he started mumbling that it was Satan that drove him into temptation!”
So did she get him arrested?
“No, he begged for forgiveness and since he hadn’t stolen anything I let him go but after a good sermon. I told him he shouldn’t play with the blessing he has of having a job while others are struggling to feed their families.
“I am not a good incident reporter. I believe that if I had reported him he would have been fired and that would have created another jobless person frustrated and that person may turn into a worse criminal.
“I let myself believe that the conversation we had and the fact that I forgave him while I had all the power to get him arrested will change something in him,” she says.
But Umuhire would not have had to face this ordeal had she taken some basic precautionary measures.
If her car had an alarm system, for instance, nothing of the sort would have happened in such a busy and public place. If your car does not possess a factory installed alarm system, one can still go for an after factory version that can be installed cheaply.
Julius Mukombozi, a resident of Kacyiru, had his car broken into right outside his perimeter fence.
“I came back home in the evening to drop off my daughter from school but since I had some people to meet later that evening I left the car in front of the gate,” he says.
Mukombozi remembers hearing the voice of a man talking so loudly over a phone.
“He was standing near the gate and talking while making short movements back and forth. The phone conversation took very long but there was nothing to raise my suspicion or point to the fact that he was a thief. Right across from my gate there is a small shop where people were seated having a drink and chatting but they also didn’t suspect anything,” he says.
In the course of the phone conversation, Mukombozi actually got in and out of his gate twice, both times walking close to the criminal that was about to vandalise his car.
The next thing he heard were cries of “thief, thief” from the direction of the shops across from his gate.
“I rushed outside only to find a crowd of people surrounding my car, while two boys run after the thief. Then I noticed my broken windscreen. When I opened the door I found the car radio unscrewed. Fortunately he hadn’t managed to pull it out yet,” Mukombozi recalls.
Tyson Nkotanyi, a driver, blames the vice on the limited parking space that often results in crowded parking lots.
“Our city is small and the parking areas are not that many, cars end up being squeezed together and this makes it easy for robbers to take advantage of this,” he says.
Nkotanyi is of the view that tighter security measures should be undertaken by the authorities to secure parking areas.
“Whether it’s during the day or at night, a thief can always find a way of unlocking a car and at least run away with the radio, this is frustrating,” laments Paul Bitariho, a businessman.
Bitariho is of the view that the police should follow up the robbers, more so look closely in areas where they sell spare parts.
Police speaks out
Theo Badege, the Police spokesman says, “As the Police, we have not had rampant cases of car burglary as compared to other theft cases. We have, however, arrested a number of burglars involved in such cases.”
What should one do to protect their car?
“They need to identify areas that are more prone to theft and avoid parking cars in such areas. In case your car is vandalised, do not take the matter into your own hands, as chasing after the thief can pose a threat to your life. Life should be a priority over property. It is always advisable to report the matter to the police, so it can be handled accordingly,” Badege advises.
To insulate your car against a break in, keep the doors locked even when you are dashing into a grocery store just to pick up a bottle of water or chewing gum.
Try to keep the car’s interior as lean as possible. Don’t leave your shopping bags, envelopes and boxes visible even when they contain no valuables. It’s called concealing the evidence.
Rather than get your car swept clean, you could actually pay someone a small tip to keep watch over your wheels, but needless to say, that would have to be a trusted person.
What should be done to prevent car break-ins?
Willy Rukundo, Public servant
These days, the best way to deal with such vices is to use IT equipment.
Having an alarm can help alert the owner, and, we shouldn’t leave expensive items in the cars because these attract thieves, especially when parked in public places.
People should also mind the places they park in and see if there is enough security.
Dieudonne Niyompano, Student
Officials should impose strict laws that punish the people who carry out robberies.
This will scare anybody else tempted to break into someone’s car.
People too should be aware of high risk zones and be careful when they decide to park in such places.
Justine Umuperisona, Student
The robbers should be followed up closely and tracked down.
This will definitely reduce on the number of theft cases.
The other thing is to use surveillance cameras; this will scare the thieves away and also help in the investigation.
Jackie Umurerwa, Data Collector
Car break-ins are becoming so common these days so people should be cautious and not leave any items in the car.
Also, ensure to leave the car securely locked.
Authorities should tighten security, especially in areas that are extremely dangerous.