Drones with facial recognition help police in Naif clamp down on crime

Technology used to detect offences in Naif, Al Ras and Eyal Nasser areas of Dubai

Col Omar Moosa Ashoor, the Deputy Head of Naif Police station, Dubai Police on June 3rd, 2021. 
Antonie Robertson / The National.
Reporter: Salam Al Amir for National

Drones have helped police in the Naif area of Dubai clamp down on illegal activity, including people flouting Covid-19 safety rules.

When movement restrictions were enforced in most of the district last year, drones were deployed to remind the public of the importance of adhering to them.

“From nearly three kilometres that make the entire of Naif area, 2.9km were under closure as part of the safety measures last year,” said Col Omar Moosa Ashoor, the deputy head of Naif police station.

The size of the area made challenging for officers to ensure it was properly policed at a time when the Covid-19 rules were relatively new to everyone.

“Therefore, we started broadcasting audio messages in different languages to raise awareness about safety measures put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus, while also reminding people to adhere to them,” he said

High-tech methods

In November last year, drones equipped with facial recognition technology were also used to detect all sorts of violations and suspicious or criminal activities, and help to capture wanted suspects.

Drones are flown over Naif, Al Ras and Eyal Nasser areas with cameras that can zoom in on people in public places and record activity from the sky.

They can spot individuals not wearing face masks, pedestrians crossing from undesignated areas and cars violating traffic rules.

In the first three months of this year, drones caught 4,400 violations, including 518 people not wearing a face mask.

Another 3,767 cases were traffic violations involving cars, motorbikes and bicycles.

Drones also detected 37 pedestrians crossing roads from undesignated areas and located 159 cars that were wanted for security reasons.

They also helped officers see offenders committing crimes from a distance.

“In one incident, officers saw a man selling something in a suspicious manner and reported it to the teams on the ground,” said Col Ashoor.

The man was found to be selling banned substances.

He and his customers were arrested and referred to prosecutors, and the substances were seized.

“Not only that, using drones has also helped us see what are the things that are not police-related but need to be attended to,” Col Ashoor said.

“For example, during the closure (lockdown), through the use of drones, we saw crowding near ATM machines as people wanted to make sure they have had enough cash.”

Officers coordinated with the central bank and made sure cash was available at all ATM machines in the area to prevent crowding.

Col Ashoor said that between May last year and the end of May 2021, the station recorded 15,529 violations involving people failing to wear face masks or keep a safe distance.

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