The UAE has helped to detain 549 drug dealers around the globe over the past four years.
Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan, Deputy Chief of Police and Public Security in Dubai and chairman of the UAE Anti-Narcotics Council, said the country had also assisted in the confiscation of significant amounts of drugs internationally over the same period.
At the World Police Summit in Dubai on Wednesday, Gen Khalfan said it was important to tackle drug abuse because it was linked to many other crimes.
“According to our studies, 49 per cent of car thieves are drug users and 64 per cent of suspects involved in violent incidents, such as assault, are also drug users,” Gen Khalfan said.
A quarter of missing person cases and close to 20 per cent of traffic offences, such as reckless driving, are also connected to drug use, he said.
“Reducing crime generally, all types of crimes, is directly linked to reducing drug crimes."
Gen Khalfan said since the UAE's Anti-Narcotics Council was established in 2016, international co-operation has strengthened and the UAE now worked with more than 55 countries to dismantle the networks of criminal gangs.
“We provided numerous countries with thousands of [pieces of] intel that helped them make arrests and drug confiscations.”
He pointed to recent co-operation between the UAE and the Chinese authorities that helped in the arrest of six suspects aboard a ship in the South China Sea that was carrying 1.5 tonnes of drugs.
He also said 14 dealers targeting the UAE were detained with the help of Pakistan's forces.
Dates for the China and Pakistan seizures were not given.
UAE's changing approach to drug abuse
The talk also reflected on how the UAE's strategy to combat drug use and trafficking has shifted over the past few years. Officers have now prioritised awareness, rehabilitation and warning of the dangers of prescription drug abuse to tackle the issue.
The UAE in 2021 also overhauled its drug laws to cut minimum sentences, provide leniency for first-time offenders and put a sharper focus on rehabilitation over punishment.
Gen Khalfan also said the UAE's death rate from drug overdoses had reduced by 49 per cent since 2016, while the rate of new drug users dropped by 24 per cent between 2016 and 2020 and dropped by 11 per cent last year. He did not elaborate.
“We increased awareness about the dangers of drugs among teachers, students, and parents, and also issued prevention protocols to help guide educational staff," Gen Khalfan said.
“Public members were provided various channels of communication to help them easily approach police in regards to drug cases or suspicions,” he said.