The traffic congestion at Red-Light, the nation’s largest market located in Paynesville, has set off an increase in auto-related thefts, especially of hubcaps (wheel/tire covers), tail lights and other quickly removable car parts.
Beware, your vehicle may be next, for at the bustling business district jam-packed with thousands of traders, pedestrians and commuters, criminals armed with a small wedge such as a screwdriver are on the prowl to snatch not only handbags, cell phones and jewellery, but now, it seems, other valuable items whose owners may not necessarily be in the position to protect.
Other vehicle parts that are targeted by these criminals include side-view mirrors and sometimes vehicle license plates.
In a two day monitoring of the Red-Light Market last week, it was observed that the criminals in many instances take advantage of the traffic jam to steal hubcaps from vehicles, while drivers are preoccupied with getting through traffic.
Initially, the criminals used to wait until after dark – between 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – to carry out their activities during the peak hours of the traffic jam throughout the week.
During the monitoring last week, it was observed that criminals are now carrying out such acts in broad daylight.
Early Wednesday last week at the Bob Taylor Junction, two young men were seen removing the hubcaps from a vehicle in traffic and escaping to the notorious criminal den called “Turtle Base.”
The property, on which Turtle Base is located in Red Light, is owned by a large family known to be engulfed in disputes over the property, giving hundreds of criminals’ leeway to take over the area as their stronghold.
In one typical instance a few weeks ago, attorney Fodayee Blama’s hub-caps were stolen while in traffic, and the criminal narrowly escaped in the direction of Turtle Base.
It was also observed that day that police officers assigned there were not available to apprehend the criminals.
Another hotspot discovered at the Red-Light Market on Tuesday is the famous Ma-Kebbeh Gas Station, where criminals were seen posted around container corners awaiting would be victims.
Traffic in that area during the early evening hours becomes chaotic and the auto parts theft criminals also take advantage of the chaos caused by the slow movement of vehicles to remove tire covers.
According to some petroleum products dealers situated close to the Ma-Kebbeh Gas Station towards the Parker Paint Junction on the Kakata/Monrovia highway, removing covers from vehicle tires is becoming grave.
Petroleum dealer Sam Boto Kollie told the Daily Observer last Wednesday that police officers should be deployed to the area during night hours to protect vehicles heading up-country.
On the West side of the Red-Light Market on the Somalia Drive Road, it was observed that relative sanity has been restored due to the location of a police depot in the area.
Six to seven months ago, before the Somalia Drive Road construction started, there were waves of auto parts thefts and snatching of people’s bags and other valuable items.
But, according to some affected business people, mainly women, that area had been a ‘no-go zone’ due to its proximity to the former crime-infested Sugar Hill.
In brief interviews on Wednesday with two of the victims, Mrs. Beatrice G. Smith and Mrs. Esther Kollie –whose handbags were reportedly snatched, the other a victim of auto part theft – they called on the LNP and other security agencies to prioritize the protection of the Red-Light Market area.
“In my view, when those gangsters are arrested at any time, they should be dealt with harshly on the spot before a crowd of onlookers and victims, and that will serve as a stern warning to other gangsters,” Mrs. Smith suggested.