Nairobi: Conmen Targeting and Stealing from People Sitting At Public Rest Areas
The weather-beaten concrete block facing the doorsteps of Kenya National Archives along Moi Avenue has become a popular resting area for most residents of Nairobi.
According to residents of Nairobi who spoke to Wananchi Reporting, the rugged pavement, lying next to the famous Tom Mboya statue, has reportedly become a common playing ground for conmen and women looking to swindle Kenyans who stop there to rest.
Although a lot of preaching take place at the spot, tens of conmen often prowl around the concrete masquerading as people looking to be shown direction – or just seeking some sort of assistance.
The area around the Kenya National Archives in December 2022 featured in a list released by the National Police Service (NPS) as one of the crime hotspots in Nairobi – following a wave of crime in the capital.
Other areas in the list included Globe Cinema, Kipande Road, parts of the Central Business District (CBD) towards River Road, Kirinyaga Road, Fig Tree, ABC Place, and Kangemi.
According to some of the residents, a lot of crime in the CBD is now happening silently.
Brigid Nyongesa recently fell a victim to a con-woman. She is just one of many victims, most of whom never report the incidences to the police.
“I was sitting at the pavement around 3pm when a woman in her late 50s approached me. She looked sickly and needed assistance to get to Odeon bus stop,” Nyongesa told Wananchi Reporting.
She says the woman walked with a tired gait, had a small handbag which she claimed contained her late husband’s pension money, money she had just collected from a bank in town.
Touched, Ms. Nyongesa says she volunteered to help the ‘sickly’ woman to get to Odeon bus stop.
“I had to hold her hand plus the bag which she claimed contained Sh150,000,” she says.
After walking for a few minutes, the old woman volunteered to carry the young lady’s bag.
“She appeared clueless, and just from the village. The more we chatted, the more I felt sympathy for her,” said Ms. Nyongesa who had no idea she was being scammed.
"After reaching Odeon, she asked me to go check a specific matatu a few metres away – only to return and find her gone.
“It took a few minutes for it to sink. I had just been conned. I shouted for help and that’s when people surrounded me, many of them being boda-boda riders and matatu operators who tried to help me," she said.
The old woman had made a way with Ms. Nyongesa's purse, mobile phone and some money.
The purse the old lady left behind had been stuffed with sheets of white paper bundled to look like notes.
Residents who spoke to Wananchi Reporting said they have had to be very careful when sitting at the pavements.
“I will listen to strangers when they approach me, but only briefly,” says Gideon Malowa a resident of Nairobi.
“Some people will come and sit next to you, start a conversation just to get into your head,” says Malowa who once shut down a man who had approached him at the same pavement – asking for direction to River Road.
There is a feeling among residents that the conmen believe that people who sit at these spots could be new in the capital, and are therefore very easy to manipulate.
The public rest areas in Nairobi include one along the Aga Khan Walk, the ‘frustration square’ near Hilton building, Uhuru Park and Jeevanjee Gardens, an open garden in CBD.
In their report last year, the police advised those visiting Nairobi to exercise minimal use of mobile phones and laptops in traffic, avoiding carrying ATM cards when not absolutely necessary. Also, Kenyans were asked to avoid leaving bags, wallets or any valuable items inside cars, band urged citizens not to fight back when attacked by criminals.