Stolen Laptops: Kenyans Lose Electronics in Wide-Spread Scheme

A man working using a laptop. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, working from home is the new normal
  • A large number of Kenyans have, unfortunately, suffered losses of important electronic devices including laptops, phones, television sets and gaming consoles.

    These situations leave many devastated, with a lack of trust in the police service leading them to quickly give up hope of recovering their items.

    Laptops, in particular, are a favorite target of various thieves and gangs in the country. After one Kenyan went viral on social media with his story of how his laptop was stolen during his days at the University of Nairobi on Thursday, August 6, he sparked an avalanche of responses from Kenyans who narrated their own experiences of losing valuable gadgets.

    These losses hurt victims not just because of the price of the items, but also, because of the data the devices often contain; be it, work, personal or study-related.

    A man working using a laptop. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, working from home is the new normal

    While victims lose their laptops in different situations, a common thread was witnessed in many of the experiences revealing wide-spread schemes.

    Higher education instituions, in particular, are a hub for the theft of laptops and other electronic devices. Often, students are expected to own laptops to facilitate their studies, and do so either with support from their guardians, their own savings and income or student loans.

    Thieves capitalize on this, targeting rooms where students stay. Numerous Kenyans reported that they lost their laptops when their rooms were broken into, or when they momentarily stepped out of their rooms only to find their devices missing when they returned.

    Another common scheme involved theft of laptops during lectures and examinations. In many institutions, learners are required to place their bags at a particular station during examinations.

    Many reported that they finished examinations only to find their laptops gone after handing in their answer sheets.

    In other instances, thieves used open windows to snatch devices including phones and laptops, catching room occupants by surprise.

    Students particularly face challenges when they lose laptops as many need them for crucial projects, assignments and research.

    Aside from students, many Kenyans have lost laptops to brazen thefts, sometimes in broad daylight.

    Some reported that, while carrying laptop bags, they were accosted by criminals armed with knives or guns on the streets of major cities and towns in the country.

    Others have been victims of home burglaries and break-ins into offices and other work-spaces and small businesses.

    In one case, victims were held at gunpoint in their home as thieves carted away electronic devices including laptops, phones, a TV and a sound system.

    These stolen electronics often find their way back to the market as second-hand goods.

    Those who purchase stolen electronics, however, face the full force of the law for handling stolen goods. 

    In 2019, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) published a statement warning Kenyans against against buying electronic goods from individuals and dealers without fixed physical addresses and unidentifiable premises to avoid buying stolen items.

    Members of the public were urged to check for requisite trade documents including licences and other national and county permits.

    File image of Kenyans pictured walking in the capital, Nairobi
    File image of Kenyans pictured walking in the capital, Nairobi

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