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Kenya, like most developing countries has experienced a rise in crime. The scope and magnitude vary with geographical variations, with urban areas being the most affected compared to rural areas. The crimes range from murders, motor vehicle robbery – popularly known as carjacking, car theft, robberies with violence, burglaries and break-ins, abductions, rape and defilements, muggings, armed livestock raids, highway banditry, domestic violence, and in the recent months terrorist related crime incidences.

The security Research and Information Centre (SRIC) established that some types of crime such as carjacking and theft, robbery, mugging, “Snatch and run”, robbery with violence and theft are more common in the urban towns and cities in Kenya. SRIC’s findings resonate with the Crime Victimization Survey report of 2010 by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNDOC, 2010)3 , which indicated that urban citizens are more likely to become victims of car-related crimes while those in rural areas are likely to be at risk of livestock theft, sexual offenses and assaults.

It is against this backdrop that this study focused on carjacking and car theft as forms of crime which in the recent past have been gaining media popularity in Kenya. Carjacking formally known as motor vehicle theft is a form of crime that entails forceful stealing of automobiles from their owners or drivers. In most cases the victim is robbed of the car and other valuables at gunpoint or using crude weapons. Under the Kenya Penal Code4 Chapter xxviii, Carjacking is classified under robbery and extortion. It is defined as “Any person who steals anything, and, at or immediately before or immediately after the time of stealing it, uses or threatens to use actual violence to any person or property in order to obtain or retain the thing stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to its being stolen or retained, is guilty of the felony termed robbery”. Carjacking is often seen as a crime of opportunity, an easy way to get a vehicle for quick money or to use it to perpetrate other forms of crimes. Car theft on the other hand is defined as the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a car or parts of an immobile car in the absence of the owner or driver. Car theft occurs mostly when the vehicle is stationary at parking or in traffic. Criminals employ different tactics when committing these types of crime. There is a clear disparity in the existing literature on carjacking incidences in Kenya with reports from the National Police Service (NPS) indicating that carjacking and car theft cases have drastically reduced over the last one year6 while consular reports and data from other different sources including hospitals and private security companies indicate that the numbers are still high. This study sought to bridge this gap by establishing the actual status of carjacking and car theft incidences across the major towns and cities in the country, police efficiency in responding to these incidences, types of motor vehicles targeted and plausible reasons for such, notorious carjacking and car theft areas, time and season, car theft and carjacking trends, variations and the level of fear among the motorists. The aim of the study was to gather information, analyze and provide statistics that would offer a nuanced picture of the extent and magnitude of these types of crime.


Some of the car theft and vehicle hijacking are discussed below;

  1. Car jacking

Due to urbanization, carjacking has been on the rise in most cities in the country; Mombasa & Nairobi. The magnanimity of this act can be seen every day from our local dailies.

Recent reports indicate Nairobi averaging ten vehicle hijackings per day. So it being an organized crime clearly depicts it not to having normal petty offenders. Now do we know the meaning of organized crimes? Criminology defines it as crimes that are propagated by high level coordinated syndicate of criminals. Who in many times are classified as politically motivated? These are the types of crimes offering dangerous threats to common citizens in our country. And recent scaling reports in crime charts reflect on how much we need to be aware of our personal safety in our roads.

Various criminological theories have been able to shade light on how this vice tends to materialize. Social learning theory and routine activity theory   depict on how such crimes occur. Scientifically;  Routine activity theory,  is  predicated  on  the parallel by two major attributes  ; suitable victim and  absence  of  a  guardian; The  theory explains that  such crimes tend to happen due to offenders  encountering  easy suitable targets within their areas.


Proper example happens every day where victims tend to be vulnerable, creating an enabling environment for such crimes. How can this be seen? Driving in deserted roads, driving in poor lit areas and parking in dark areas. These are just to mention but a few.

Due to the increase of the population in our cities, and increased congestion of citizens in the local amenities, crime has sporadically spurred .There’s a sudden strain on the local resources and unemployed youths have become an easy prey for this syndicate organized gangs, and through social learning, different tactics are shared everyday among the criminals thus change in the modus operandi. Different tactics are now being implored each and every day in terms of crimes. For car-jacking, recent annual crime reports in most countries in the world   indicate a change in operations even after the rise of technology.

  1. Theft of an unattended vehicle without a key

The removal of a parked vehicle either by breaking and entry, followed by hotwiring or other tampering methods to start the vehicle, or else towing. Car thefts are now from high-tech OBD (Onboard Diagnostic Port) key-cloning kits (available online) and bypass immobilizer simulators.

  1. Taking without owner’s consent (TWOC)

The unauthorized use of a car short of theft. This term is used in the United Kingdom, as is the derivative “twocking”.

  1. Opportunistic theft

Either the removal of a vehicle that is unattended with the keys visible and sometimes the engine idling, or theft of a vehicle offered for sale during what the thief represents as a test drive. A “test drive” may also give a potential thief insight into where the vehicle keys are stored, so that the thief may return later to steal the vehicle.

  1. Fraudulent theft

Illegal acquisition of a vehicle from a seller through fraudulent transfer of funds that the seller will ultimately not receive (such as by identity theft or counterfeiting a cashier’s check), or through the use of a loan obtained under false pretenses. Many vehicles stolen via fraud are soon resold, by the thieves. Using this approach, the thief can quietly evade detection and continue stealing vehicles in different jurisdictions. Car rental companies and car dealerships are also defrauded by car thieves into renting, selling, financing, or leasing them cars with fake identification, checks, and credit cards. This is a common practice near national borders, where everything tracking devices are less effective because the victims may lack jurisdiction in the countries into which the vehicles quickly are removed.

  1. Frosting:

Occurring in winter, which involves an opportunist thief stealing a vehicle with its engine running whilst the owner de-ices it.

“Hanoi burglary”, where a vehicle is taken during a house burglary, often done with the explicit purpose of obtaining car keys. Named after the first police operation targeting the method.

  1. Joyriding

Refers to driving or riding in a stolen vehicle, most commonly a car, with no particular goal other than the pleasure or thrill of doing so

  1. Keyless-Go systems theft

The risk of cars with keyless entry being stolen is high. These are cars where the owner doesn’t have to even press a button to unlock as long as the key is located at a certain distance from the vehicle. In theory, the key’s signal should no longer reach the car when the driver moves away, making it impossible to unlock the car. Car thieves extend the signal from the owner’s key with the help of simple signal amplifiers. And then all they have to do is open the door, hit the start button and drive away unnoticed. The car’s alarm system is totally blind to this.


There are various methods of prevention to reduce the likelihood of a vehicle getting stolen. These include physical barriers, which make the effort of stealing the vehicle more difficult. Some of these include:

  1. Devices used to lock a part of the vehicle necessary in its operation, such as the wheel, steering wheel or brake pedal. A commonly used device of this kind is the steering-wheel lock (also known as a crook lock or club lock).
  2. Immobilizers allow the vehicle to start only if a key containing the correct chip is present in the ignition. These work by locking the steering wheel and disabling the ignition.
  3. Hidden kill switches cut electric current to the ignition coil, fuel pump, or other system to frustrate or slow down a thief.
  4. Deterrents tell the thief they are more likely to get caught if the vehicle is stolen. These include:
  • Car alarm systems are triggered by breaking and entry into the vehicle.
  • Microdot identification tags allow individual parts of a vehicle to be identified.
  • Signs on windows warning of other deterrents, sometimes as a bluff.
  • VIN etching may reduce the resale
  1. Avoid driving in high crime areas
  2. Keep vehicles, and windows closed
  3. Parking in well-lit areas
  4. Being alert and of ones surrounding
  5. Notify police in case of a car jacking
  6. Avoid isolated ATMS and other amenities


“Motor Vehicle Theft”. FBI.gov. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

“FindLaw for Legal Professionals – Case Law, Federal and State Resources, Forms, and Code”. Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2 January 2014.

Jump up to:a b “Hanoi-style car theft gang jailed”. BBC. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 13 May2019.

“Car theft is a growing problem. Learn how to protect yourself”. 2020-03-04. Retrieved 2020-03-09.

Biham, Eli; Dunkelman, Orr; Indesteege, Sebastiaan; Keller, Nathan; Preneel, Bart(2008), How To Steal Cars — A Practical Attack on KeeLoqEurocrypt 2008

Bono, Stephen C.; Green, Matthew; Stubblefield, Adam; Juels, Ari; Rubin, Aviel D.; Szydlo, Michael (2005), Security Analysis of a Cryptographically-Enabled RFID Device, 14th USENIX Security Symposium

Lambert, Fred (10 August 2018). “Stolen Tesla vehicles in the US have almost all been recovered: 112 out of 115”. Electrek.

“Car Theft Stats” (PDF). Gold Coast City Council. Retrieved 27 August 2012.

“Thefts of older cars driven by rise in scrap metal price”Fairfax Media. 25 March 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 27 August 2012.

รู้ยัง? …5 อันดับรถยนต์ และ 10 สถานที่ ที่ถูกขโมยมากที่สุดในกรุงเทพฯ และโอกาสได้คืน !! (in Thai). Matichon Online. 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.

5 อันดับ รถยนต์ที่ถูกขโมยมากที่สุดในกรุงเทพฯ (in Thai). Thai Rath Online. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015.

Hagan, Frank E. (2010), Crime Types and CriminalsSAGE Publications, p. 157, ISBN 1412964792

Crime and criminal justice statistics, used table: motor vehicle theft. Retrieved 24 May 2014

“FBI Crime 2012”. FBI.gov. Retrieved 31 May 2014.


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