Tanzania – Police Report

This whole episode was quite funny, especially now, looking back at it. Unfortunately, I will not be able to portray the absurd dialogues and setting, but I will give it a try anyway.

After we had discussed things for a few days, we decided to go to the police. I needed the police report for the insurance anyway. The police officer seemed to be a really nice guy, which was somewhat comforting.

Describing what had happened turned out to be a bit more complicated than expected. Partly because we had a very difficult time describing where we had been, and basically all other details, and partly because his English was limited and hard to understand.

After an attempt at describing the event, he obviously needed some details. First off, where in Dar es Salaam they picked us up. All we knew was that it was somewhere near the water. Which wasn’t very helpful, since it could be a stretch spanning many kilometers. “Which car was it?” He asked. “Hmm…it was white.” Was all we knew. “Do you know which brand it was? What did it look like?” “Well, maybe it was a…Toyota?” We tried.

If you have been to Tanzania then you probably know that more or less 90% of the cars in Tanzania are Toyota, and most of them white. (Something I realized later.)

It had been our first time in Dar es Salaam, to me it was even the first time in Africa, so details of the event was impossible to remember. “Which way did they take you? Where did you go?” He asked. “We were supposed to go to Coco Beach, but never actually made it there. At some point we could see the ocean.” We explained, knowing that we didn’t really answer his question. (A map could maybe have been a help, but maps are not an everyday thing in Tanzania.)


“Okay then. What about the banks? Can you tell me which banks you were at? The name, the color, the amount of letters?” He asked. We looked at each other. We had seen all of them, but not paid attention to them. “I believe I remember one of them.” I said. “I think it was green, and had 3 letters, and it was next to a gas station.” (Or so I thought. It turned out later, when I passed one of the banks, that it was in fact blue and had 4 letters.)

When we told him that they gave us back our memory cards, my sim card, passport and credit card. He just chuckled, “They gave you back all that stuff? They must have really liked you.”

When we described the whole episode, he was simply unable to comprehend how things had unfolded. He kept getting things backwards or downright wrong. But after trying to clear things up for a while, he grabbed a piece of paper “the police report” and just gave it a go.

With a handwriting that was quite challenging to read, he tried to write down the event while dictating it out loud, so we could follow his progress. Basically, everything he wrote was in the wrong order, and we had to explain everything multiple times. You could tell that he really did his best to understand what had happened, squinting his eyes whenever we tried to explain something or corrected what he had written. He really wanted to understand it, but just couldn’t. There were just too many details.

Meanwhile, one of the other officers were trying to catch a frog behind him, that had jumped into the tiny police office, to seek shelter from the pouring rain outside.

I had shown the officer the piece of paper with the phone number the robbers had given us. And I also showed him the text message I had received in Swahili. With total disregard for evidence or protection of the victims (us) he wrote the phone number, from the text message, down on the evidence, and then called it from my number. Which, by the way, was a Danish number that charged $3 per minute.

I felt quite uncomfortable by him trying to contact them on my phone, I didn’t feel like having more contact with them. No one picked up though. Then he called the other number, the one the robbers had given us. It still wasn’t working.

We were still working on the police report when my phone suddenly rang. It was the same number that had send the text the day before. The officer quickly picked up and tried to change his voice into mine. It was truly hilarious seeing this big police officer, with a heavy, heavy Tanzanian accent trying to imitate my voice.

He had a natural deep voice and now talked in a tiny, squeaky voice. Which sounded nothing like mine, I feel inclined to add. He tried to arrange a deal with them, saying he (I) still wanted my things back and wanted to meet. When he asked where they were, they hung up. (This was actually not the robbers at all, but a german guy I had forgot I had given my number to. My bad.)

I would really want to see a video recording of this whole thing, it was so weird, and sadly I am unable to convey it properly.

Then he continued writing the police report, but was slowly giving up trying to grasp anything of what had happened. When he reached the end of the A4 sized paper, he turned it around and quickly scribbled a bunch of stuff, on the backside, and added a dot in the end. Then he handed it to us, so we could verify it.

When reading it I had no idea what it actually said. The handwriting was nearly impossible to decipher, the grammar was random at best (I know mine needs work as well, but it is still incomparable 🙂 ) and what I could actually make out, was either completely wrong or inaccurate. At the same time he had omitted huge chunks of details, but since we had spend nearly 2 hours on it, I just agreed to it. I knew it wasn’t going to change anything anyway.

The main reason was that he never, at any point, asked what they looked like. (Something we would actually have been able to answer, for a change.) Yet he told us that they would soon catch these guys.

In the end we asked if we had to be worried about them coming after us. To which he answered no. “So, even though they know where we are staying, they won’t come after us?” We asked. “They know where you are staying!?” He uttered surprised with a worried expression. “Yes, do you think they will be looking for us?” “No, no, don’t worry.”

Then we were shown to the captain’s office. I am clueless why that is. Perhaps as an extra service because we were tourists. A big, black, smiling woman. At first it seemed quite suspicious that we had to go into another room after we were done with the police report. She had a nice radiance about her though.

Once in there, she asked, “Now, what can I do for you?” Hmm you tell me, we didn’t even know why we were send in there in the first place. Apparently, neither was she. We chatted for a bit, and at some point asked if we had to be worried about the robbers knowing where we were staying.

“They know where you are staying!?!” She cried out, with the same worried expression the officer had, when we asked him. “Yes, do you think they will come after us?” “No, no, don’t worry.” She assured us. “How do they know where you are staying?” She continued.

Obviously it was hard to know what to trust, their words or their body language. It wasn’t very comforting that they both reacted the way they did.

The result of it all was a police report that was nearly impossible to read, written in poor English, and on a piece of paper that would be hard to convince anybody, was in fact an official police report. But I needed it for the insurance.

By the time I found a reliable internet connection and was able to send all the details to the insurance company, a couple of months later, I had build up another 2 cases. 3 thefts/robberies in 3 months is not a very good statistic. Fortunately, it could only improve. And fortunately it has.

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