How social media fuel child kidnappings

30Sep 2018
Aisia Rweyemamu
Guardian On Sunday
How social media fuel child kidnappings

EXPOSING your lifestyle and worth and displaying your children on the social media could render them as kidnap victims.

Police in Dar es Salaam told the Guardian recently that with the current hardships of life and considering that a good number of people were jobless, it was very risky for people, especially well-to-do individuals, to expose their lives on the social media.

“Criminals, particularly kidnappers, are busy thinking about how they can get hold of part of your wealth, so each time you post your picture, your house and other valuable items on the social media you offer them an opportunity to zero in on their next victim,” police force spokesperson Assistance Commissioner of Police Barnabas Mwakalukwa.

Mwakalukwa said it was now quite fashionable for parents to expose their property and some of their family members, including their children, on the social media.

He warned that such information could place you at grave risk as the next robbery target or your kids as potential kidnap victims.

He told The Guardian on Sunday in a telephone interview that criminals were not very far from us, stressing that “they live within our community.”

During the past two weeks there has been a spate of child kidnappings in Dar es Salaam, with three cases having been reported to the police. The kidnap victims were aged between two and five years.

The first case involved three-year-old Beauty Isango, who was snatched by an unknown woman from Sunday school when her mother was in church. Luckily, a keen Samaritan noticed her two days later, informed her mother and the kidnapper was nabbed while the kid was reunited with her family unharmed.  

A few days later, thirteen-year-old Idrissa Ally was also kidnapped. He too was later found alive following frantic search by the police and the public, including posting his photo on the social media.

“Most of these kidnapping incidents are linked with fraud or revenge,” Mwakalukwa said.

He said this was why most incidents occurred in well-to-do areas and not in relatively poor communities.

“Take an example. You form an alumni of primary or secondary school mates and these are people you have never met for a long time, you do not know what they do for a living and yet you tell all about your life in your meetings,” he said.

He said social group members have a tendency to expose, in good faith, their personal and family issues. However, this is done without any background check of the other members since they parted their ways at school.

Mwakalukwa added that through family information exposed on the social media a criminal can exploit it to commit crime.

“The society needs to realize that there are many frauds committed through social networks and crime is a human phenomenon,” he pointed out.

He said child kidnapping was a crime like any other and it was not new in the country.

“Train your children not to receive every call. You put a password on your phone and encourage your children to do so too so that not everyone can have access to them,” Mwakalukwa said.

Reached for comment, Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC) official blamed laxity on the part of parents, guardians and the general public for the spate of child kidnappings in Dar es Salaam.

LHRC Programme Officer for Gender and Children Gentrude Shengediabena told the Guardian that parents needed to be aware all the time that parenting and protecting their children was their first and foremost responsibility. 

“The police should be aware that there is a network of kidnappers, so they should work tirelessly to bust it,” she said.

The officer challenged the community to take part in protecting their children wherever they are.

“The community needs to ensure that school and church areas do not have adequate protection for children so as not to allow criminals to take advantage of any loopholes,” she said.

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