In Summary
  • Ngei Phase II estate was once a hotbed of crime. Burglaries and car break-ins were especially common.

  • You would park your car at your front gate and get into your house, but on getting out a while later, you would find a wheel or other accessories missing.

  • So estate officials hired and trained security guards came at an extra cost to the residents and it proved to be a worthy investment.
  • From their experience, the first step in combating neighbourhood crime is to get every resident’s support.

If you do not feel safe, no matter where you live, you will not be a happy tenant. Even if you live in a leafy neighbourhood that has running water all day-long, has a sewerage system that works, or is near amenities such as schools, hospitals and one-stop malls, if you do not feel secure when you go to sleep at night, you will be a dissatisfied homeowner.

Several years ago, residents of Ngei Phase II in Nairobi’s Lang’ata area lived in apprehension. Robbery and theft, even in broad daylight, was common until the residents came together, pooled resources and took deliberate measures to ensure that they and their families were safe.

BURGLARIES

The chairperson of the residents’ association, Mr Paul Murwithania, offers lessons on how residents can improve the safety in their neighbourhoods. Mr Murwithania is a security expert and a former senior criminal investigations officer who currently works for an international organisation in charge of security and safety.

The estate, he explains, is made up of a church, several schools and 298 main houses. Many of these houses also include extensions and servant quarters.

The chair, who moved into the estate in 2006, says that the estate was once a hotbed of crime. Burglaries and car break-ins, he says, were especially common.

“You would park your car at your front gate and get into your house, but on getting out a while later, you would find a wheel or other accessories missing,” he says, adding that incidents of crime are now unheard of.

From experience, he says that the first step in combating neighbourhood crime is to get every resident’s support. “Keeping our estate safe is an undertaking that required a lot of money as well as goodwill from the residents. While every resident agreed that security was important, it was not easy to convince them to dutifully contribute the monthly membership fees we had agreed on,” he reveals.

Rose Mwangi, a resident of the estate since 2007, says that the executive committee of the estate, which is tasked with running the neighbourhood’s affairs had to prove to the residents that the money collected would be put to good use.

STRATEGY

“We implemented a strategy whereby we release quarterly financial reports to show our members how their money was spent. We also introduced digital payment to make tracking of payments easier. This has greatly increased compliance,” says Ms Mwangi, who serves as the secretary to the estate’s executive committee.

Having seen the ways in which their money has been utilised, some members of the estate now go an extra mile and volunteer their time resources to keep the neighbourhood safer.

Says Murwithania, “Sometime back, part of the estate’s fence was damaged, and people that don’t live here began to sneak into the main playground to, ostensibly, play football, but were actually peddling drugs such as bhang in the estate. We raised money and put up a fence, which immediately dealt with this problem,” he says, adding that any outsiders hiring the ground for events are duly vetted.

Ensuring that the residents follow the rule of the law, no matter their status in the estate, was another critical step in bringing security to Ngei Phase II.

For example, residents are prohibited from ordering deliveries past 10pm, and all are required to have their vehicles inspected by security personnel. Also, no resident is allowed to put up an unapproved structure as had been the norm before, a factor that led to formation of informal settlements around the area.

Ms Mwangi explains that earlier on, private developers had grabbed land that was supposed to be used by the residents as a playground.

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