Safety and Security in Kenya

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Safety and Security:

As in any country, there are a few safety and security issues in Kenya. Kenya is a poor country, and there are many people who are forced to make a living by illegal means. Normal Kenyan citizens are definitely targets, but rich, naive tourists are an even bigger temptation for thieves, pick pockets, and con artists. Crime is not so common in rural areas, but in big cities, especially Nairobi.

By taking necessary precautions, however, the risks of a security incident can be reduced drastically. By decreasing the temptation for thieves, staying away from bad areas, and being aware and using common sense, you can have a safe trip. Luckily, violent crime is rare in Kenya, even in Nairobi. Violence exists, but thieves care only of a victim’s goods, and will not inflict harm unless necessary. An important part in eliminating the risk of being hurt is remembering this: Always try to never fight with a thief, or chase a mugger, although it may go against your instincts.

There are many forms of prevention that can A prospective threat can sometimes be noticed before the incident. If you think you’re been followed or eyed by a suspicious person or people, duck into a shop and wait it out. If you make them aware that you are on to them, they will usually give up. Incidents can also be prevented by the way you act. Always act confidently and look like you know where you’re going, even if you don’t. Stop in a shop to look at a map or ask directions. Another obvious form of prevention is never to show large amounts of money. Someone who pulls out a stack of 1000 shilling notes to pay for one item is asking to lose it all. Here are some other tips for having a safe trip.

Theft:

Your bags and valuables are at the most risk when you are on the move. Hotel rooms are usually safe, except for the cheaper brothels. If the hotel has a safe deposit box, use it for your most valuable possessions. When moving in between places, such as from the airport to the hotel, or from the hotel to the bus stage, using a taxi is your best bet. When in rough areas of Nairobi, remember to keep the doors locked and don’t open the windows. If you’re taking public transportation, try to keep your bags in view. Your bags are usually always safe in the boot of a bus, but I’ve heard of touts taking items from a bag on top of a bus.

There are several measures you can take to eliminate the risk of loosing items while traveling. First, put small locks on your baggage. If you have a backpack, lock the main compartments. Losing the entire piece of luggage is very rare, so this deters thieves from rooting through your luggage. Also, never keep you valuables in your bags, but on your person, preferably next to your skin. Money belts or pouches around your neck or waist is your best bet, although not fool-proof by any means. As a general rule, never walk anywhere at night. Taxis are sometimes expensive, but the price is worth it. If you are forced to walk, stay in groups and pay a night guard on the street to escort you.

Mugging:

Of all of the security incidents I heard of in two and a half years in Kenya, most cases were mugging. In the vast majority of cases, the person lost only a small amount of money. Anyone can get mugged, but if you carry only essential items, and hide those items well, you won’t have much to fear from muggers.

Preventing getting mugged or pick pocketed is simple: don’t carry anything you can’t bear to lose. Of course, it’s necessary to carry some items, such as money and a passport, but if those are well placed on your body, you should have no fear of loosing anything to muggers. Don’t go out with more money that you need, and keep the money you that do need split up in many places on your body. For example, keep a little money in your pocket for spending, some between your foot and sock, and the rest in your money belt.

Never wear items of value, such as watches or other jewelry. Desperate thieves have been known to rip off earrings, so they definitely won’t hesitate to snatch a bracelet or necklace. Nice sports caps are hot items, and it is common for thieves to snatch a cap and run. It bad areas, sunglasses can even be grabbed. If you must carry a camera out when walking around a big city, put it in your small bag or purse, and only take it out when you take a picture.

Being mugged or having items stolen is still possible after taking all these preventions. If are a victim of crime, I again encourage you to cut your losses and let the thief go. Some gangs will send one member to take an item, them after being chased by the victim, lead him or her into an alley where the rest of his friends await to take everything. Being chased also gives them reason to use violence. Be careful about yelling “thief” after being mugged. Mob justice is common in Kenya, and one assumed thief is killed by citizens in Nairobi every day. If thieves are caught, you’ll end up seeing him beaten, perhaps even killed. Think about if your $9.99 watch is worth it. Unfortunately, thieves are hardly ever caught by police, and it usually isn’t worth you time to report the incident unless it is required for theft insurance.

Harassment:

Harassment is the most common form of security risk. I include harassment because it can make travelers feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. Harassment ranges from being taunted to being touched inappropriately. When you’re laughed at, taunted or called names, the easiest thing to do is ignore it.

Taking action is necessary, however, when being sexually harassed. Is is quite common for Kenyan men to make rude comments to women tourists. Even men are subjected to sexual harassment by prostitutes. There is no excuse for someone, either woman or man, making a sexual comment or touching someone inappropriately. All Kenyans know better, so let the harasser know his or her actions are not wanted, and don’t be polite. Others around you may come to your aid if you tell them. If the harasser is not embarrassed enough to stop at this point, leave the scene. If the person follows, ask the help of a guard or store owner.

Con Artists:

It’s quite common to run into someone in Nairobi who has a plan to separate some gullible tourist from his or her money. They take on the role of a political refugee and request money for their family. They’ll pretend like students collecting contribution for their schools. Men dress up as beggars, then, after you give them a coin or two, “plain clothed police” will tell you it’s illegal and ask for a “fine.” They come up with stories that they know you from somewhere are just need a little something for some petrol, then they’ll pay you back. They may even drop money, then after you return it, claim that you have taken some and threaten to tell the police. Con artists think of new stories every day, and it can be quite entertaining to listen to them. Use of common sense is your main weapon against confidence tricks. If you’re not sure whether to believe it, your surely right. Never give money to any stranger.

Street Kids:

Homeless are very common in Kenyan cities, especially young boys, some that can be very big boys. These boys band together in large groups and can make one feel unsafe even if they’re only begging for change. The best way to get rid of a single street kid, or a small group, is to ignore them and walk on. If they follow, it may help to tell them you have no money, or that you’ll give them something later. Giving money is hardly ever dangerous, but remember that giving money encourages more kids to work the streets and the money may be used to buy glue, which is sniffed by the boys to escape their harsh reality. If you must give something, buying homeless a meal is always a good way to lend a hand.

Violent crime:

Violent crime can be prevented by not resisting, chasing, or fighting thieves. Walking around at night, especially alone, increases your chances or violent crime. Fortunately, if you take these precautions and use common sense, you can almost completely eliminate all chance of being a victim of violent crime.

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