DUBAI // The Dubai police chief has urged expatriates to set aside their fear of interacting with local law enforcement authorities and report crimes.
Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, speaking yesterday at the second Forum for Combating Human Trafficking, said making people report crimes was difficult, especially in a country with a large expatriate community, because people feared they would be interrogated.
"It is tough being a stranger in a country. One might put up with many wrong things carried out against them, rather than report it to law enforcement authorities as they are scared of being questioned," he said.
"We know this, as we tend to do the same when we are abroad - we do not want to come in contact with law enforcement authorities."
Public interaction with police and reporting crimes is an important aspect of combating crime, according to Gen Tamim.
"Uncovering crimes does not necessarily have to be done solely through our work; it could also be through tips received from the public," he said.
Gen Tamim recalled a recent case in which a human trafficking ring was uncovered with the help of a member of the public.
The case came to light when an Egyptian man found a small piece of paper with a note that some women were being held against their will in a building and forced into prostitution.
According to Gen Tamim, the man contacted the police and handed over the piece of paper. The gang was arrested following a police investigation.
He also said people needed to understand their rights and duties in order to trust the authorities, adding the media should play a role in educating the public.
"The media needs to highlight penalties enforced on criminals, especially in human trafficking cases. People need to know that those who break the law do not escape punishment," he said.
Afra al Basti, the chief executive of Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, said the main factor in getting people to report human trafficking crimes is awareness. "If people are well educated about the crime and understand its seriousness, I do not think they would hesitate to report it. But if they do not have enough awareness then I can see them refraining from reporting it. That is why the role of media is important in spreading awareness," she said.
Last year, 35 human trafficking cases were referred to public prosecution in Dubai, an increase of more than a third from 2009. The majority of the 61 victims in last year's cases were women, according to the Dubai Police's annual Human Trafficking Report.
Gen Tamim said police would soon have a new, dedicated hotline number for the reporting of human trafficking cases.
"We are working on a hotline number which will be announced soon to facilitate those who want to report such crimes," said Gen Tamim.
He called on the other emirates to work towards opening their own hotlines for the reporting of human trafficking crimes.