Strange things Nairobi thieves steal. If you asked many Nairobians about the valuable items that they may want secured or locked up, a most probable response would be items such as cash, cars, and electronics, which are all an obvious target of thieves.
As a result, many would take precautions to ensure the safety of such items including fancy security safes and high-tech car alarm and tracker systems. Few would pay attention to common household items such as baby foods, infant formulas, or beauty products that are now ranked as the most commonly stolen goods.
Many are also unlikely to mention manhole covers among other metal objects that are frequently stolen for resale as scrap metal or car exhaust catalytic converters which are now highly targeted for the pricey platinum metal they contain.
Based on market inquiries, here are some of the weird most stolen items.
The economic times may be tough, but they have done little to dampen many a women’s aspirations of outward beauty. According to the Retail Traders Association of Kenya (Retrak), beauty products are the most stolen in supermarkets.
Some of these products include skin moisturisers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup, preparations shampoo, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpastes, and deodorants.
“People are stealing these products because they hold more value. Also, their demand is astronomical,” Retrak CEO Wambui Mbarire says.
Some retail outlets have now resorted to placing beauty and personal care products in locked glass cases to limit theft. In some retail outlets, the sections stocked with beauty and personal care products are monitored through closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) and security tags placed on some products to tame thieves. The security tags are programmed such that the alarm at the door of the retail store goes off if a product has not been cleared at the point of sale.
Tow eye covers
These are the small pieces of plastic on the front and rear car bumper which cover the metal rings that allow a vehicle to be towed. Given the prominent location of the tow eye covers on car bumpers, motorists attach huge aesthetic value to them, which has hooked the attention of thieves.
A spot check around town reveals many popular car brands such as BMW, Subaru, Volvo, Mercedes and Range Rover are now targeted by thieves who pluck off tow eye covers.
Sources say the tiny pieces of plastic sell for about Sh1,000 to Sh2,500 each in the black market depending on the brand and model of the vehicle.
“Theft of the tow eye covers has become common because vehicle bumpers look ugly without them and many drivers can’t stand that. Most dealers and new spare shops also don’t stock these covers which makes them a popular item in the black market,” Tim Oyoo, a mechanic on Nairobi’s Kirinyaga Road says.
Irked by the theft of tow eye covers, some motorists have opted to rivet or glue them to the bumper or have special towing hooks welded on the vehicle chassis.
Baby food and formulas
A spot check by the Business Daily in key retail outlets shows that popular brands of baby foods are quite pricey, making them a target for thieves. For instance, a 400 gramme (gm) tin of NutriStart by Cow&Gate costs a minimum Sh1,163 while a similar quantity of NAN Optipro milk formular by Nestle retails for about Sh1,230. A 400gm of cerelac wheat ble baby food sells at a minimum Sh560 in many outlets.
Like beauty products, some retailers have now placed baby foods in lockable glass cases or placed them on special sections which are monitored through CCTV cameras.
Pregnancy tests kits
These are among the most shoplifted items, a trend driven by youthful girls seeking to avoid embarrassment. Though quality home pregnancy test kits averagely cost about Sh250-Sh350 in Nairobi, many young women avoid buying them over the counter for fear of gossip.
These items are mainly stolen by shop attendants who resell them through organised groups in most estates and city backstreets. Demand for pregnancy test kits is high throughout the year, making them a key target by thieves.
There is however some hope. The introduction of online delivery services of pharmacy products promises to end the theft of contraceptives and pregnancy test kits because buyers are spared the embarrassment of picking such items from crowded stores.
The theft of catalytic converters from cars has become a global problem, which won’t go away just yet. This component is found in a car’s exhaust system and is purposed to clean up harmful gases before they exit the exhaust pipe.
Thieves, however, see more to the catalytic converters than just the elimination of harmful gases. They are targeted for the pricey platinum metal they contain.
Though there are many different types of converters, those found in hybrid vehicles are the most sought after by thieves because this type of vehicles have two power sources – electric and petrol or diesel – hence the catalytic converter is used less frequently to process pollutants. The metals are less likely to corrode, meaning they are worth more and thus attractive to thieves.
Most of the catalytic converters are stolen from vehicles left unattended in garages. According to a July poll of global analysts and traders by Reuters, platinum – which currently sells at about $840 (Sh90,720) an ounce — will average $832 (Sh89,856) this year and $9,139 (Sh98,604) in 2021 — a confirmation of why thieves are on the lookout for their next prey.
Kenya Auto Bazaar Association secretary-general Charles Munyori, says in addition to the catalytic converters, theft of car radio SD Cards and computer components, which form the Controller Area Network has also become rampant.
A recent rally in global prices of base metals has made manhole covers a hot cake for thieves. Spot checks in the Nairobi central business district (CBD) as well as in residential estates confirm widespread theft. The covers end up in the yards of scrap metal dealers.
A recent boom in real estate development around Nairobi and other urban areas has also fuelled the theft of manholes as some developers seek to cut on cost by buying from the black market.
Stung by high costs loss due to theft of manhole covers, many utility firms, such as fibre companies and county governments, are turning to those made from polymer plastics or concrete. The utility firms are also branding the manhole covers, hoping to put off thieves.
Manhole covers typically retail at Sh1,200 to Sh5,000 depending on the size and quality of material used.
Source – BusinessDay
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