A greener way to fight crime

Policemen in the capital could soon be gliding past you on a two-wheeled Segway, after they caught the eye of Sheikh Saif bin Zayed.

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ABU DHABI // Policemen in the capital could soon be gliding past you on two wheels after the Segway kiosk at the Abu Dhabi International Motor Show caught a ministerial eye. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, discussed the feasibility of bringing in a fleet of the personal "human transporters" for street patrols in the capital yesterday, and is considering an US$80,000 (Dh290,000) order. The self-balancing electric vehicles are currently used in more than 700 police departments around the world, according to Steven Brown-Cestero, the chief executive of Segway in Dubai. Sheikh Saif expressed interest in the i2 model after seeing it at the Emirates Boating Show International last month, but he was delighted yesterday after being shown a prototype painted in the Abu Dhabi Police department colours. Modifications such as LED lights, sirens, baskets and a shield for protection can be bolted on to newer versions, said Haytham Rashid, the showroom manager for Al Masaood Marine, which sells the Segway in Abu Dhabi. "Sheikh Saif had two questions - how to park the Segway and what range it can cover," Mr Rashid said. Users can lock the vehicles after dismounting, and they can run up to 16 kilometres on a single battery charge. "I explained everything, and he was convinced," Mr Rashid said. "Basically, he gave us the go-ahead to order two units. He said, 'Give me one of this, one of that and the police can do their own testing'." Aside from reducing fuel consumption in the city, the emissions-free scooters are "a huge policing tool" that can shorten emergency response times while boosting a sense of community security, Mr Brown-Cestero, said. "Right now, most policemen sit inside their cars, windows rolled up," he said. "Being on a Segway is like going back to the old beat cop days. [The officer] is a visible deterrent who moves three times as fast as an old beat cop running to an incident." Segways can accelerate up to 20 kph and are subject to all pedestrian laws in the UAE. While they cannot mount stairs, they are able to give chase on the beach and lawns, as well as roll up small hills. Meanwhile, Dubai Police are also discussing the possibility of buying a small fleet of the motorised scooters. Official use of the Segway is not an entirely novel concept. The Abu Dhabi and Dubai international airports have small fleets for security and the zero-carbon Masdar City plans to limit traffic to only Segways. The Jumeirah Beach hotel offers "gliding tours" to guests. And Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi has four units, said Mukhalad al Asadi, the mall's operations manager. "They're very useful because the mall is getting bigger and bigger, and so in case of emergency, we've been able to reach the location faster," he said. The Dubai International Financial Centre purchased four Segways for security this week and the Dubai Mall has six for patrols. The scooters may be most valuable in high-occupancy areas inaccessible to cars. "They're very good for emergencies in crowded areas, they're quicker than 4x4s," Mr Rashid said. "If you plan it so a policeman is spread on Hamdan or Electra Street, then they can respond to an accident in a few minutes." Police departments, college campus security and parking enforcement officers in more than 700 cities around the world use Segways, Mr Brown said. The New York City Police Department bought 10 last year and Italian police rode the machines during the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. However, in 2006, faulty software was blamed for at least six cases of head and wrist injuries among people riding Segways in Dubai. A recall of 23,500 scooters affected about 350 UAE units, according to reports, and the bug was fixed after a five-minute upgrade. People who ride Segways are advised to wear helmets. mkwong@thenational.ae