Perceptions of crime in the UAE contrast with the reality

Thankfully, people who believe crime is a problem in the UAE are in the minority – and they are wrong

People in the UAE feel free to go about their lives without the fear of being assaulted or robbed. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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One of the many benefits of living in the UAE is that the country enjoys a low crime rate compared with the rest of the region, and the world in general. While no country is entirely without crime, people here should feel free to go about their lives without the fear of being assaulted or robbed.

It comes as a surprise, then, that a survey conducted by YouGov for The National, published in today’s news pages, found that almost a third of the respondents believe crime is a problem across the UAE, and that 45 per cent said they were either very or fairly worried about becoming a victim of crime. Twelve per cent of the 1,008 people surveyed said they felt that crime was a “very big problem” in the UAE, with a further 18 per cent citing it as “quite a big problem”. The rest thought, correctly, that crime was not a major problem.

Indeed, official statistics show that the UAE is very safe. According to a 2011 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, the murder rate is 0.8 per 100,000 people in the UAE, compared to a rate of 1.0 in Saudi Arabia, 4.2 in Yemen, 5.0 in the United States, 3.4 in India and 7.3 in Pakistan. A 2013 US Department of State report on cities worldwide placed Abu Dhabi at the “low end of the spectrum” in terms of overall crime rate, noting that violent crimes and crimes against property are infrequent and, when they do occur, weapons are rarely used.

The YouGov survey reveals some valid concerns about perceived societal problems. Many respondents were worried about crime caused by drugs, alcohol, unemployment and family breakdown. They also perceived risks emanating from the divide between rich and poor, and a lack of discipline among young people.

Of course, we should all be vigilant about the possibility of crime. That includes taking sensible measures to protect our property from theft – for example, by locking the house when we go away and not leaving valuables in parked vehicles – and making sure that vulnerable family members and friends feel safe and secure.

Concern about our shared community is a positive and laudable thing but, as the majority of people surveyed have acknowledged, we certainly have no reason to live in fear, or to stress about something that probably will never happen. As one survery respondent said: “This is an absolutely safe country. Being a victim of crime is the last thing on my mind.”