Crime drops after camp gang break-up

Crime in Jebel Ali, a major industrial and labour accommodation district, has dropped by more than 45 per cent from last year.

Dubai // Crime in Jebel Ali, a major industrial and labour accommodation district, has dropped by more than 45 per cent from last year. The dismantling of gangs selling alcohol in labour camps was key to the reduction in criminal activity, police said.

A series of programmes in Jebel Ali targeting the sale of alcohol in labour camps, the theft of electrical cables and road safety have led to the dramatic drop in crime, police said. "Alcohol abuse leads to the committing of many crimes that disturb the security in the area," said Lt Col Abdul Qader al Bannai, the director of the Jebel Ali police station. "This is why, as part of the programme, we set up groups of officials to monitor and stop this."

Jebel Ali houses some of the biggest industries in Dubai and is also one of the largest living areas for labourers. Thousands of expatriate men reside in the area and are prime targets for bootleggers and illegal alcohol traders. "The accurate assessment of the reality and special surrounding environment in Jebel Ali prompted us to implement a number of programmes in order to address such violations and create a safe environment," said Col al Bannai.

He said 1,486 people had been arrested for various offences last year, as compared to 889 in 2008. Those arrested included bootleg gang members involved in armed fights, kidnapping and other threatening activities. The issue of alcohol in Jebel Ali labour camps came to the fore in January 2009 after 13 members of a bootlegging gang were arrested for kidnapping and murdering two people of a rival gang.

The heavily armed men were identified by the police as the strongest gang in the area and their arrest was seen as a major victory for the police. The case is ongoing at the Dubai court. After the arrests, a series of inspections were conducted by the police, immigration, and municipal authorities, as well as private security companies, to combat the alcohol trade, especially in Al Quoz, Jebel Ali and Sonapur.

The municipality said that nearly 500 bottles of whisky and beer were seized in 2009 from labour accommodations in those areas. Last month, 998 bottles of illicit alcohol seized by municipal inspectors were destroyed in a rubbish dump in Al Qusais. The inspectors also destroyed nearly 55,000 pirated DVD films and 1,700 pornographic films, most of which were recovered from the same areas. Late last month, 17 other bootleggers were condemned to death for killing a man in Jebel Ali

The illegal liquor trade is also rampant in labour accommodation areas of Sharjah. Last month, Sharjah Police arrested a gang of 18 men allegedly involved in the illegal alcohol trade and the kidnapping and killing of rival bootlegging gang members. Workers living in Jebel Ali said that people seeking liquor know where to get it. "It is available," said the worker, who did not wish to be named. An Indian national who has lived there for five years, he said that large gangs who operated openly seem to have gone away.

"We see a lot of police now and they are always patrolling. That makes many of us feel safe, as things can get violent. I am told that there are no longer any big gangs here," he said. Another person employed in Jebel Ali said bootleggers are now hiding liquor in the boot of their cars and delivering only to people they know. "They come in hired cars and pretend to be staff or employees of companies. Earlier, there was open sale but now they are a lot more cautious as police are on the lookout for them," he said.