KAMPALA. A total of 2,321 people have been arrested in Kampala on suspicion of involvement in crimes such as robbery, counterfeits and drug smoking and distribution in the last six weeks.
The operation in which several suspects were netted was commanded by Kampala Metropolitan police commander and commissioner of police, Mr Moses Kabugo Kafeero.
Mr Kafeero, flanked by his deputy Denis Namuwooza, and other commanders launched a one-week clampdown on street robbers, which led to the arrest of 1,300 suspects in a single night.
Mr Kafeero says the operation follows public complaints about criminals that victimise both pedestrians and drivers, especially during peak hours.
“There were many complaints from the public about these criminals targeting them in traffic jam. Criminals snatch phones, wallets, and other valuables from unsuspecting drivers, pedestrians and passengers. We cannot just look on as residents cry. We are determined to arrest and charge these criminals,” Mr Kafeero says.
Police say, “some criminals place knives and other rudimentary weapons on pedestrians’ ribs or necks before they force them into building corridors from where they are robbed clean.”
Mr Kafeero vows that such people will be wiped out of Kampala by use of intelligence, covert and overt operations.
“Why should a person be threatened? Why should people be on tension because of criminals? Why should someone fear to walk on Kampala streets? We shall slowly deal with these criminals until the city is safe,” Mr Kafeero adds.
Early last month, police launched a hunt on a racket of thugs that saw the arrest of suspected counterfeit masterminds operating around Katwe and Mengo suburbs.
Police arrested Joseph Mugerwa, who was allgedly in possession of a million counterfeit bank notes. Mugerwa revealed Abdullah Tumwesigye as the source of the counterfeit money.
Police raided Tumwesigye’s home at Kagujje in Katwe where a bag full of counterfeit bank notes of different denominations was recovered.
A woman, who was identified as Sauda Namyenya, 38, was found at the home, minting the notes. Namyenya and Mugerwa were charged with possession of counterfeits, according to Mr Kafeero.
Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, says there are rackets that print fake local and foreign currencies and circulate them to unsuspecting traders.
Police say counterfeiters often target shops that have many clients where attendants have little time to scrutinise the notes.
“For instance, they will look for a busy shop in places such as Kikuubo and buy items worth a small amount of money with the intent of getting genuine money as balance. They try to bargain to make you think they don’t have enough money yet that is intended to buy your attention,” Mr Owoyesigyire says.
He says several cases of counterfeits have been reported since the start of the year, but he could not avail statistics on the cases that have so far been registered across Kampala Metropolitan that covers Kampala City, Wakiso and Mukono.
However, police say Katwe, Kisenyi and Nansana have been the main sources of counterfeit money thus asking traders and the public to be cautious before they transact with their customers.
Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) has registered five cases in the last five months but mostly involve traders and other individuals.
Sham Nantege, one of the traders was in June conned of Shs40,000 and scholastic materials worth Shs10,000. The bookshop attendant says a man bought books from her shop and gave her a Shs50,000 note.
She realised that the note was fake after the conman had left.
“He was smartly dressed and looked very gentle. Even when he was bargaining for prices of different scholastic materials, he spoke with honesty and respect. It was painful to realise that he had given me a fake note,” Ms Nantege says.
Mr Owoyesigyire warned that fake money dealers also target mobile money operators, people in betting companies, market vendors and sometimes taxi parks where one may be given counterfeit as balance.
Ms Vivian Nakakumba, a resident of Kampala, was arrested recently after she was spotted in several banks trying to dupe people in fake dollar transaction. Her luck ran out after one of her previous victims, Joyce Mbabazi, spotted her in Kyotera trying the same ploy.
Police said Nakakumba had conned Mbabazi of more than Shs700,000 at Kings Sports Betting, Lyantonde branch.