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Vandals of metallic items give Malindi business community sleepless nights

Vandals of metallic items are on the prowl in Malindi Town of Kilifi County, giving the business community and local residents sleepless nights.

The criminals have in recent times been breaking into business premises and residential houses to vandalize and steal items that have metals in them with a view to selling them to unsuspecting scrap metal dealers.

Traders who spoke to journalists in Malindi said they were counting losses amounting to millions of shillings after their premises were broken into and their property stolen and sold to the

A metallic water meter. Vandals target water meters, whether metallic or plastic, largely for the brass found in it, which they then sell to scrap metal dealers within the town. Photo by KNA.

for a pittance.

Recently, two men were arrested for stealing a 225-kilovolt generator worth about Sh.1 million at the Sindbad Hotel in the town and selling it at Sh.10,000 to a nearby scrap metal yard.

The  Chairman of the Kilifi County Bars and Restaurants Association, Erick Mwashighadi has consequently called on authorities to vet scrap metal dealers before allowing them to start operating their business as they could be conniving with the vandals.

Mwashighadi, who is also the proprietor of the famous Stars and Garters Restaurant in Malindi Town, said the scrap metal business should be carried out by persons of integrity, who would question the source of the items before accepting them in their yards.

“The scrap metal business should be operated by people of integrity, who should be able to question where the raw material come from before buying the items,” he said adding, “They should always record details and contacts of the sellers so that in case of a problem, they are able to trace them.”

The thieves have been targeting generators, water meters, metallic signboards and metallic items at construction sites and abandoned buildings.

He said several hotel and bar owners who closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic have complained of vandalized gates and grills by persons believed to be selling the stolen items to scrap metal dealers.

The proprietor of Sindbad Hotel, Mr. Rodgers Kaibunga, claimed that the criminals were enjoying protection from influential persons in government, making it hard for the victims to get justice.

“My generator was stolen and sold to a scrap metal dealer who later dismantled and sold the metallic parts as scrap without bothering to know the source of the generator. We were lucky to identify the culprit through closed circuit television (CCTV),” he said.

The Malindi Water and Sewerage Company (Mawasco) Managing Director, Gerald Mwambire said hundreds of water meters, generators and transformers belonging to the company and its customers had been stolen and sold the scrap metal dealers in the town.

The company and its customers, he said, loses close to Sh.10 million worth of water meters, with the vandals stealing an average of 20 water meters per week.

This, he said, exposed the company to other losses, including unaccounted for water that gets lost when the meters are taken away, as well as leaving many people without water supply.

“Fittings worth more than Sh. 400,000 were stolen from the Kadanzani-Adu-Kamale water project in a single night even before the contractor handed over the project to us. He replaced it only for it to be stolen again, and now the intended customers have no water,” he said.

Mwambire said his company is contemplating installing water meters inside customers’ houses to avoid theft, although he said this would pose a challenge in terms of accessibility and meter tampering.

“Although we have lately been branding some of the items to avoid theft, they are still being stolen as the thieves mostly target the water meters due to the brass metals found in it.

Mwambire added that several meetings with scrap metal dealers had yielded no fruit and called for the regulation of the scrap metal business to stem the vice.

By Emmanuel Masha

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