A FEW days ago I met with the inconvenience of being visited by Property Re-allocation Operatives taking advantage of an unbelievable amount of luck and surviving narrowly because of the casual ineptitude of their should-be nemeses.
I could have written, “The other day my stuff stolen by some lucky thieves who got away because the security wasn’t at its best…” but I don’t want to point fingers and sound angry at people who I cannot demand more from fwaaa like that.
The thieves made off with my Rose Nakitto bag with a Macbook Pro in it (Serial Number C02J9385DQK), a notebook with very special handwritten notes in it (please return this? A reward awaits – seriously), a pen, my wallet with cash and identity cards, a bag of medicinal drugs, and some other personal items.
It happened at an up-market shopping mall, in Kampala. The thieves were two females, whose efficiency is commendable in many ways. In all, I was away from the station for just three minutes. During those three minutes I walked to the toilet and back, killing two minutes in hurried chit chat with people I met along the way.
I never stay away from my laptop (or other) bags for long because I am afraid of them being stolen – and this is the first time it has ever happened in many years of my conveying one wherever I go.
Normally I will have my laptop out and plugged into the wall in order to make it awkward for a snatch and flee theft. But I had completed my meeting and walked away leaving the bag with a lawyer friend who was unfortunate to be on the scene this way.
As soon as I left the first female took the seat behind him, on the verandah, and tapped him on the shoulder to borrow a pen. That went too quickly, apparently, so she whipped out an identity card of sorts and struck up a conversation about crossing the border using the random card.
It didn’t get far before she quickly said her thanks, stood up, and left hurriedly.
I returned a minute later and asked after my bag, at which point his eyes lit up as the conversation finally made sense, and this is where we began dealing with the private security guards. Having made it to the most likely exists within seconds, we lost precious time trying to get them to focus on the need to trace or chase after the thieves.
During the many seconds it took to get it through to them why we were moving urgently, one of the guards thought we were simply striking up a casual conversation, and even started a story about a similar incident having taken place some time back, perhaps at a different location in a totally different country. I shut that one down quite quickly and tried to be as professional as the investigators are in all those television crime thrillers we enjoy reading and watching.
That was part of my problem, I realised, but could also become a solution because next year I will be getting some of these security guards to watch these dramas so they understand where we get our expectations from.
After a few minutes of frantic ‘preliminary enquiries’ we realised that one of the thieving females had actually used the exit we were at, and determined the direction in which she had gone – mostly thanks to a bystander who confirmed that the woman fitting our description had appeared odd (read ’suspect’) rushing about the way she had. By that time we had waded through very many unnecessary questions and comments from what eventually became a gathering of private security guards, allowing the perpetrators of the crime to get further and further away with their loot.
We arranged access to the CCTV (closed circuit television) monitoring room and retreated there to do some more scientific scrutiny and within minutes realised we had to take over the manipulation of the technology.
The poor fellow in control, another private security guard, seemed to have a limited appreciation of what the video cameras and computers were capable of doing besides forwarding and rewinding at different speeds.
By the time we identified the thieving females I knew there was no catching them that night.
In the process, though, we got told that some of the cameras covering critical parts of the Mall were in boxes right in that room where we stood, and would be installed the very next day. I was too irritated to get into the reasons why the cameras were still boxed and not being installed that very minute, let alone from the time they had been delivered!
I won’t even go into the analysis of the footage we reviewed.
As I said at the start, I found it hard to complain too much because I know that these fellows are not paid a lot of money and probably don’t get the training we believe they should have.
I actually once started drafting a “Letter to the Random Askari” but stopped halfway because not only was it condescending, it was downright escapist from their reality.
This Christmas I am tipping security guards (government and private) in a special way just to say “Thank You” to them for all the times things haven’t gone wrong, rather than blaming them for the times they did go wrong.
And next year I’ll dedicate a little bit of energy to helping them operate more efficiently where I can contribute, so that they can do even better than they already are doing.