One hundred traffickers who targeted the public through an illicit WhatsApp "drug delivery service" were arrested by Dubai Police during a major crime-fighting campaign.
Criminals sent unsolicited messages to users of the service promoting the sale of items such as illegal painkillers, hashish and crystal meth.
After a purchase was agreed, they would share GPS co-ordinates of the location of the drugs, which were usually buried in the ground in remote areas.
The messages were sent at random from unidentified phone numbers.
“The ‘Unknown Messages’ campaign is a crackdown on traffickers who provided what we can call a ‘drug delivery’ service,” said Col Abdullah Al Khayat, manager of Hemaya International Centre at Dubai Police.
“Traffickers send messages from unknown numbers to residents across the country offering them different types of drugs such as hashish, crystal meth and illegal painkillers.”
Police worked with the UAE's telecommunications providers, Etisalat and du, as well as the Roads and Transport Authority and the Central Bank to raise awareness of the WhatsApp drug networks as part of a high-profile initiative run from July 15 to November 1, 2021.
Warning alerts were sent to 18 million du and Etisalat users, while the RTA used its extensive transport fleet to help support the fight against drugs.
“RTA shared more than 77 million warning and educating messages across its different fleets and another 91 million were posted on ATMs in the country,” Col Al Khayat said.
People were urged to take screen grabs of the messages they received and send them to police, who were then able to ensure the mobile numbers were blocked.
Col Al Khayat praised the public for their support of the initiative and emphasised the need for parents to educate their children over the dangers of drugs.
“Adults were very responsive and followed instructions, but there is a need for parents talk to their children about the topic [to prevent] them falling victims to drug promoters,” he said.
Dubai Police said 632 people reported messages promoting the sale of drugs to its e-crime platform during the initiative.
“This is a significant increase given that during 13 months before the campaign only 229 reports of such messages were made to police,” Col Al Khayat said.