Police crackdown theft syndicate at UCU

By Eriah Lule.

According to the Uganda Police report of 2021, it revealed that out of every 100,000 people, 502 were victims of crime. Theft, a primary crime among university students, had 41,950 cases by the year 2020.

With the ongoing support of the University administration and the Uganda Police, tidings about various security measures have been preached on university grounds, community worship sessions, hostels, and halls of residence for the university fraternity (mostly students) to remain security conscious with their property.

The rampant theft cases that occurred within the university premises, especially in the Janani Luwumu Dining Hall, attracted a lot of attention from the police and Uganda Christian University (UCU) Security officials.

One of UCU’s security officials asserts that theft has become rampant within the university premises day in and out. “It was really shameful and created a bad image for our institution,” he said.

With the help from Uganda Police, a storming operation was carried out using both university and national cameras that showed Odeke Emmanuel, a resident of Makerere Kikoni, stealing a phone and laptop from Namazzi Caroline (Not her real name), who was reading in the dining room and left her property to refresh.

Odeke confessed the various tricks of an underground organized syndicate that was running this disguised business in the name of UK used phones at the Cooper complex in Kampala city.

According to Odeke, they would steal or pick up books before disguising themselves as students and passing through the gate.We would pretend we didn’t carry our IDs and deceive the guards, who in turn allowed us to enter, especially ‘the Wandegeya gate’,” he said. “Then we would walk slowly by the pitch to the dining area and start scouting.”

“Our primary targets were mostly females who were interested in iPhones, Samsung phones, and laptops; these already had a market,” he explained.

“How would a person from Makerere Kikoni steal from UCU?” was the question everyone asked.

Odeke was first introduced to UCU early this year by Okiror Joshua, who he claimed was a former student of Nkumba University and a fellow vendor in Namayiba Bus Park in Kampala city.

After stealing, they were sometimes sent transport by Mutaasa Rashid, who was their immediate customer at Cooper Complex in Kampala City. “He would then give us money, but for me I used to get from a range of 80,000shillings to 150,000shillings; I didn’t ask Joshua how much he sold.”

Odeke said that Okiror is operating in a big syndicate that is operating crime in universities like Nkumba, Ndejje, Makerere, and UCU.

Juma Kyaterekera, a netball coach at UCU, said that when he saw the picture of Odeke, he notified police that he was a bit familiar with the face. “I used to see his face but I would tell he was a stranger from the way he conducted himself while passing the netball cot,” he said. “When I saw him in the DH, we just held him up to the police.”

George William Ssengendo, a third-year student pursing a Bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Project Planning, says that the security in UCU is far better than that outside, but they need to put more effort into it. “During the Easter semester exams, nine phones of my friends were stolen and yet we had been told that the place has cameras and is being patrolled by a security guard,” he said.

Kainemura beleives that the security tips availed by police and the Director of Students Affairs’ office have passed many security tips to students over time, but they just don’t respond to them positively until one loses property. 

“This operation run by the police has given them a stepping stone and I believe they will arrest the tap root of this syndicate,” Jonas said.

As student leaders, they have tried to engage the university and police to trial suspects in the courts of law. “I believe arresting alone is not only. We asked the vice chancellor to further trial the suspects for the victims to get justice.” He said. 

The police are still carrying out operations to uncover the syndicate.