On March 11, an anonymous caller reported to the detectives that a domestic worker had escaped from her employer’s house in Buruburu after stabbing her employer’s two children.
The caller shared the house help’s phone number detective on duty at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation call centre, which was used to trace her to Eldoret, where she was arrested as she fled to Uganda.
In another case, a call to the centre led to the arrest of the Mitheru Police Post boss, who was accused of defiling six boys in his house in Chogoria township. And in yet another incident, an anonymous call helped detectives arrest a teacher in Embu who was accused of defiling a five-year-old girl.
Last month, detectives foiled a child trafficking after the neighbours of a woman who had noticed another woman arriving at her house with a baby. She claimed she had been handed the baby by its mother for safe keeping.
A study launched by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in July last year revealed that cases of child abuse in the country are common, with young adults reporting to have experienced violence as children.
About 50 per cent of children in Kenya experience some form of violence and as the world marks the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression today, Kenya is making gains in its efforts to curb violence against children, courtesy of the DCI toll free line 0800722203, dubbed #FichuaKwaDCI.
Since its launch on December 11, 2020, the DCI toll free line receives an average of 70 to 100 calls a day from anonymous callers who have helped detect and deter crime.
Inspector Elizabeth Kilonzo from the Crime Research and Investigations Bureau notes that reported cases on abuses against children are on the increase, with Nairobi, Kisumu and Murang’a counties leading on defilement reports.
“Other crimes against children include early marriages in the Coast region and Samburu county. In Nairobi, majority of the cases involve child labour and child pornography,” she said.
The line is built in a way that protects the caller’s identity and is meant to be an intelligence-based source of information that can be acted upon by the various units of the DCI.
“Majority of the cases are reported during the day. Before dispatching the information received to various DCI units, other security agencies or regional administration officials, we have to verify it to establish the facts,” Inspector Ndichu Kihuria, the call centre’s supervisor said.
Mr Peterson Amimo, one of the six detectives seconded to the centre, says although they receive prank calls from curious Kenyans, most of the calls coming in are serious reports on crimes happening in the country, ranging from child abuse, fraud, drinks getting spiked, possession of illegal firearms, human smuggling and domestic violence.
“A few Kenyans also call to make enquiries on how to officially report a case or how to get justice,” said Mr Amimo.
He also notes that a caller's anonymity adds value to the centre, in that officers are able to get more reports, even from people who do not want to be identified as the ones who reported a crime.
"The way the system is built, we cannot see the caller's image or mobile number," Mr Amimo explains.
Security experts too believe that the hotline’s anonymity feature has managed to help bridge the gap left by mistrust haboured by the public against the police, making it the most preferred police reporting line in the country at the moment.
“Some of the comments that I have come across from highly sourced places are that this is a centre that is actually delivered for the public. That when a member of the public calls this number, they are guaranteed that someone will answer. I have heard some senior officials saying to me that some of the other numbers do not work,” discloses Mr Waqar Qureshi, an international liaison officer attached to the UK’s National Crime Agency.
The deputy director of the DCI’s Child Protection Unit, Mr Paul Wafula, offers that with the tips received from the hotline and DCI social media pages, particularly Twitter, detectives managed to arrest two FGM suspects in Samburu, foil online child pornography recruitment and hasten delivery of justice to child victims of abuse.
“At the unit we now have a fully equipped cyber wing that helps retrieve even deleted data from suspects' mobile phones and establishes the source of the images sent by perpetrators of these crimes,” said Mr Wafula.
The unit further boasts of an analyst that was seconded by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), who receives and analyses materials from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NECMC) and the International Centre for Sexually Exploited children (ICSE) in efforts to protect Kenyan children from the jaws of online paedophiles.