Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tension as carjacking cases rise in Lagos

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Suspects arrested for carjacking
Going by the number of stolen vehicles recovered each week by the Lagos State Police Command, it seems that there is security lapse as carjacking has become a thriving business among criminals in the state, writes Comfort Oseghale.

Every week, the Lagos State Police Command compiles a list of stolen vehicles recovered in the state. The minimum number is 15. On the average, about of 60 vehicles are recovered monthly across Lagos State. In the month of July 2011, a total of 72 vehicles were recovered by various police divisions.

Already for the month of August, the number of recovered vehicles has been put at 33. Every week, at least two vehicles are reported stolen at the Lagos State Police Command. That makes it an average of eight vehicles monthly. This does not include stolen vehicles documented at police divisions, which might never get reported at the Lagos Police Command.

These data are all a grim indication of the reality that car theft is on the rise daily. If the average number of stolen cars recovered monthly is put at 60, one can only imagine the number of stolen cars which are never found, especially those who find their way to other states and neighbouring countries, and are sold to new owners.

Though social analysts and psychologists may attribute this recent rise in crime to harsh economic conditions, a number of factors have also encouraged this trend.
The first is associated with traffic, as more often than not, Lagos residents are usually robbed of their cars during traffic congestion. Only last week, an employee of the PUNCH was robbed of her car at gunpoint at about 5.30 pm while she was stuck in traffic on Lateef Jakande Road, Agidingbi. This is just one of the numerous cases.

Yet, despite persistent reports of such cases, the Lagos State Police Command is yet to ensure that patrol vehicles are permanently stationed at such sensitive areas across the Lagos metropolis. Agindingbi is not the only place notorious for car snatching in Lagos. Miccom Bus Stop, Akowonjo, is another black spot when it comes to car snatching. Like what happens in many instances, the crime is usually carried out during traffic jam.

A resident who lives at Miccom told CRIME DIGEST that Odebunmi Street, just off Miccom Bus Stop, was usually the scene of such crimes. “This street is notorious for all manner of crimes and not just car theft; there are so many questionable characters: young unemployed men who live in around this environment. From upwards of 6 pm every day, they are always on the prowl.

“Usually, when there is traffic on Akowonjo Road, lots of motorists, especially private car owners, prefer to pass through Odebunmi Street to get to their destination. This street is a short cut to Iyana Ipaja because it is a link to Alaguntan Bus Stop at Iyana Ipaja. Those who live at Gowon Estate can also link Ponle from here; which is much faster than going down to Egbeda before turning off.

“While all these cars are driving past, the boys will be loitering around, waiting for an opportunity to rob a car at gunpoint,” the source said.

Miccom Bus Stop is just one of the several black spots in Lagos where car theft occurs on a weekly basis. There is Ogunlana Street at Egbeda, where armed robbers trail their victims on motorcycles before they are robbed of their cars either at home or any other convenient spot; Toyota and Cele bus stops on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, and Fola Agoro Junction at Somolu. Abule-Egba, Alakuko, Alausa and all other areas close to the expressway which link Ogun State, are favourite spots for car robbers. In most of these cases, these car robbers station themselves where one is likely to get the highest number of choice cars. What better place is there than a route which leads to posh estates and where there is virtually no police presence?

A Somolu resident explains the reason for the rise in theft at Fola Agoro Junction to CRIME DIGEST. He says, “Fola Agoro Junction is a T-Junction and you know what that means. You cannot afford to drive on speed and so most of the time, car robbers usually strike at night while private car owners are negotiating the T-Junction. The junction is a link to Bariga and so many other residential areas. Another factor encouraging this is the total lack of police presence in the area despite the high crime rate.”

Another factor that ensures car robbers get away with their booty is that most car owners in Lagos fail to install security devices in their cars.

The CEO of Mega Guards, a security outfit, Mr. Richard Amuwa, stressed the importance of car tracking devices to CRIME DIGEST. “There is little one can do to prevent one’s car from being taken, especially if it is at gunpoint. The safest thing to do is to install a tracking device on your car. Apart from the fact that your car can be easily recovered whenever it is stolen, it also ensures that you don’t waste time complying with the robbers, thereby preserving your life. Car tracking devices can be easily obtained from any security firm. Car alarms are useful, but robbers have found a way of disabling car alarms, which makes it less effective than tracking devices,” Amuwa said.

He advised Lagos residents to be more conscious of their environment. “People have to be more conscious of their surroundings because there are incidents where people park their cars on the streets or any other public place. Before their return, their cars would have been stolen. In such a case, one just has to be observant and mindful of suspicious characters lurking around. Another thing is, never to drive so close to the next person whenever you are in traffic; it pays to leave some distance between you and the driver in front just in case you have to make a quick escape if you notice any shady character approaching you.”

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Samuel Jinadu, was not available for comments on the issue as he did not reply the calls made to his cell phone.

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