Kenya

Reporting a Theft at the Nairobi Central Police Station

Last weekend I had my phone — an LG Nexus 4 — stolen on a matatu in town (a City Hoppa bus on the Ngong Road → Nairobi route). It must have happened as I was getting off at Kenyatta Ave / Koinange street, as I had it in my hands just before then, but had put it into my bag before alighting. I wanted to go tell Safaricom to block the IMEI so that the phone couldn’t be used on their network, and apparently they won’t do that unless you file a police report.

This is what happened when I went to the Central Police Station to report the theft.

TL;DR: it was an very unpleasant experience; somehow they manage to make you feel like a criminal for being the victim of a crime… (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Filing a Report

After waiting for ten minutes in the front room without anyone talking to us, we were told to go sit in another room in the back. After fifteen minutes a guy came in and asked what we needed. I explained that my phone had been stolen in a matatu and that I wanted to file a report. He asked me several times which matatu route it was, and exactly where I had alighted. He lazily told me that I needed to go to the other police station in Kilimani because I had alighted in another jurisdiction (I didn’t).

Finally he agreed where I had alighted was under their jurisdiction, but said he didn’t have the occurrences book (“OB”) in which to write our report. He then proceeded to check scores of a football match on the radio, and then read through several newspapers. People came in, people went out, conversations went on, etc. One young man was being physically and verbally harassed — apparently he was a security guard and he had been wearing his green uniform sweatshirt while he was off duty. Someone brought him in because the color of the sweatshirt was the same color worn by the Administration Police (AP). I don’t know what happened to him.

Forty five minutes later someone else came in with the book. He handled another guy’s report before mine, a guy who had been selling milk and was robbed of 5,000 shillings and his phone, asking him all sorts of condescending questions and almost like trying to catch him in a lie. When he finally got to me I said I wanted to report that my phone was stolen. Then he accused me of not giving him my name and other details (and he hadn’t even asked for it, WTF!).

When I said I wanted the report so I could take it to Safaricom and have the IMEI blocked, he said that I shouldn’t do that because someone went to the effort to steal it, so why would I want to make it so they couldn’t use it? Also, why didn’t I just give the police a few days and then have them track it down (wink wink, for a fee, of course).

No Stamp, Cuz Sunday!

After the details were down, he told me they couldn’t give me a report because it was Sunday, and there was no stamp, so I’d have to come back tomorrow. Then some old, drunk dude walked in wearing a Muslim cap and coastal-looking kitenge (ie, not a police uniform). He started mumbling in Swahili and Arabic, then took me down the hall to another room. As we walked (slowly, staggering) he was excited that I came from Obama land, and that I knew Swahili.

In the room, he brought out a blank police report. It was folded and kinda wrinkled. He had to ask around to find a pen. I explained again what had happened, where I alighted, etc, and then wrote the IMEI of the phone on the form (I had brought the original box with me).

Buy Me a Soda

The kicker is that, when I was walking out with my report, the old crazy drunk guy stopped us and suggested that we buy him and the other guy a soda.

My friend and I gave some ummms and uhhhhs and looked at each other, and he kept insisting. I tried to tell him that I’ve just been a victim of a crime, why should I pay something? He muttered that next time he should help one of his African countrymen instead. I told him, “Watcha niseme tumeshukuru sana” (lemme just say we’re very grateful). Of course, he kept insisting, so I tried the common Kenyan trick, “Next time…” to which he responded, “Next time utagongwa na bomb” (you’ll be hit with a bomb). Ummmm.

I guess he was just mad, but that’s not something a cop should be able to say to you. In a police station, nonetheless! Anyways, out of the ten or so run-ins I’ve had with the police over the last six years I’ve lived in Kenya, I’ve never felt safer, protected, concerned for, or any of the other things police are supposed to do for you, so this was just par for the course.

Two Hours Later

The whole ordeal took 2 hours, during which my friend and I witnessed corruption and verbal/physical harassment of other people reporting crimes, and possibly arresting someone who had done nothing illegal.

Fuck da Police

You were all thinking it, I know.

10 Comments

  1. caroline

    pole sana..it never ceases to amaze us locals either about the apathy shown by our policemen…actually I’m abit surprised how things turned out for you.. since we always feel that the mzungus get attended to faster by law-enforcement..

    1. Alan Author

      Kent, I was on a matatu. My phone was removed from my backpack. I didn’t notice it until later. I only had the box with me when I then went to the police station the next day.

    1. Alan Author

      No problem! I’ve been in Kenya long enough that it’s not that surprising. But still, I felt that I should write up my experiences for the record!

  2. Alan, this is hilarious! I know it shouldn’t be but I am laughing my Kenyan ass off! You are lucky you were not arrested for being in Kenya ‘illegally’ or something like that. You make me miss home! I have been away for a whole year and the sterile, methodical way in which things work in Stellenbosch is so…uninteresting.

  3. AndrewAndrax

    The police just make one to be proud to be Kenya #rolling eyes# nice to see that in six years you have been able to experience stuff that takes a lifetime to experience. The worst for me is someone stealing my phone and TEAR GAS.
    Thanks for the site and I am now bookmarking it. Asante mkubwa B-)

  4. linah

    pole sana. that’s how you realize you have been in Nairobi long enough. you may have tried the police station in the kicc basement, they are friendlier though they also physically harass the street kids if they catch them stealing , all in the name of “tunawafunza tabia” .

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