A joint operation involving police officers in Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang'a and Machakos counties will be mobilised to tackle criminal gangs in Makutano.
The small town, situated on the Kenol-Sagana road on the border of Kirinyaga and Embu counties, is said to be home to organised gangs.
Part of the town is in Kirinyaga and the other in Embu, but it is within walking distance of Machakos and Murang'a counties.
The action follows spirited activism by religious leaders and residents’ associations, with the media helping to highlight the social and economic ills in the town.
In June, the Indigenous Faiths Association that includes members in Murang'a, Kirinyaga and Embu counties, wrote to Nation.Africa to complain about Makutano.
"Our underage children are stealing from us and hibernating to Makutano town where they engage in sexual orgies, drug abuse and gambling,” wrote the association’s chairman Bishop Simon Nyútú.
“Our women are being lured to the town to become Commercial Sex Workers ... Our stolen livestock end up in that town's backstreet markets."
A security report in July showed that Makutano is home to armed thugs rob and steal, oil-siphoning gangs, gamblers, human traffickers, narcotics, and illicit brew dealers, and brothel operators.
"The town whose cash flow is largely dependent on criminal enterprises is poorly policed. Separation of duties and jurisdiction among security organs has also bred confusion that makes the town a safe haven for the criminals," the report said.
It proposed that the town be policed by a multi-agency security team with the cooperation of the four counties.
The team would include administrators, county government enforcement departments, the National Police Service, the National Intelligence Service, public health departments, Nyumba Kumi and community policing stakeholders.
"If it is inducing alcohol trade discipline, it is the work of administrators and the county governments. They have to be brought on board and be supported by the National Police Service that is mandated to institute arrests and prefer charges," the report notes.
The criminals are said to be moneyed, recruiting security officers to partner with them in defeating the law. As a result, the town continues to suffer violent robberies and thefts in which the targets are harmed. Dealers in narcotics and illegal brews and cattle rustlers have also set base in the small dusty town.
Security agencies "are working towards establishing a cohesive joint operation to address the menace", said Mbeere South sub-county Police Commander Inviolata Lumati.
Ms Lumati said "we have the awkward case of criminals once they sense Embu police officers are shadowing them for arrest, they cross the boundaries into Kirinyaga, Murang'a or Machakos".
She said police can operate without regard to administrative boundaries, "but to avoid confusion and overlap of duties, the best strategy is coming up as a team and executing a well-coordinated crackdown that will leave the networks entrapped".
She said county governments are to blame for allowing bar owners to break the law by operating outside legal hours.
"About my police officers said to cooperate with the criminals ... I am investigating using my own ways and all those who will be incriminated will face disciplinary action as spelt out by the internal code of conduct," she said.
Murang'a South sub-county Police Commander Alexander Shikondi said his region is affected by the activities of organised criminals in Makutano.
"We have experienced illegal immigrants in transit from Ethiopia and Somalia to Nairobi, as well as being the offloading point of bhang by long-distance transport drivers from North Eastern for onward distribution to surrounding towns and villages,” he said.
“We have been prompted to remain very vigilant on the Murang'a part of the Makutano-Kenol road," he said.
The human trafficking racket involves some military personnel, police officers and senior administrators.
Mr Shikondi said that in the past three months, 12 illegal immigrants have been arrested trying to get past Murang'a South and narcotics worth Sh2.5 million seized. The narcotics had come from Moyale, whereas the immigrants were all from Ethiopia.
The Kirinyaga side, under County Commander Mathews Mang'ira, is accused of neglecting policing in Motel estate, where all types of criminals congregate to plan attacks and share out their loot.
The estate hosts two of the biggest brothels in the town, while Karwana is home to the biggest oil-siphoning syndicate.
Motor vehicle owners complain that some fuel stations in the town buy siphoned fuels that are further adulterated, handing them costly engine knocks, the broader effect being a loss to the national economy.
"The government is doing us a major disservice by entertaining the siphoning of fuel, which is then adulterated and sold to unsuspecting motorists. It is tantamount to government-sponsored economic sabotage," said Mt Kenya East and West Matatu Owners Welfare Association coordinator Rufus Ndwiga.
Mr Ndwiga said all drivers and touts under the association have been warned about buying fuel from fuel stations in Makutano.
"We have also warned them against getting involved in transport deals that involve contraband from the Makutano underworld gangs," he said.