'Hollywood movie' case led to more cameras in Dubai hotels

Dubai Hamas murder anniversary: The number of CCTV cameras in Dubai has quadrupled since the murder of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.

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DUBAI // The number of surveillance cameras in Dubai quadrupled to 100,000 in the two years following the murder of Al Mabhouh.
Dubai had about 25,000 cameras at the time of the killing, according to police.
The increase can be mainly attributed to a new article, added shortly after the killing to Dubai's existing security systems law, that made installing surveillance cameras in hotel corridors mandatory.
Before the Al Mabhouh murder, hotels were only required to have CCTV in their lobbies, entrances and lifts. "The case highlighted the importance of having surveillance cameras in hotel corridors, so we added an article to our local law to make it compulsory for hotel managements," said Lt Col Khalifa Al Saleis, head of the Protective Systems Department at Dubai Police.
Police said they were able to identify the Mossad death squad behind the murder by analysing 1,700 hours of film footage, and attributed their success in the case to the heavy presence of cameras in the emirate.
"The change in the law meant that, on average, each hotel had to add 100 to 150 cameras. This has pushed up the number of cameras to at least 100,000 around the city," he said.
Other emirates are also working to develop and expand their electronic security networks. "They are working hard but with the lack of a law it is difficult to push businesses in the right direction," said Lt Col Al Saleis.
A federal law to standardise the rules of surveillance system installation and use - expected to be passed last year - is still in the works. It is hoped the law will narrow the gap in standards between the emirates. While some emirates have already made CCTV mandatory, others have barely any systems in place.
"There have been some delays in drafting the law due to the reservations of some, but we are hoping it will be ready in the coming months," said Lt Col Al Saleis, who is also the deputy head of the Ministry of Interior committee that was formed to develop the law in 2009, a month before the murder.
Dubai Police first made camera installation mandatory for local businesses in 2005. "We knew the importance of the cameras for a long time but after Al Mabhouh many of the establishments that were reluctant to spend large amounts of money on cameras realised their importance," said Lt Col Al Saleis.
Hotel CCTV is not directly linked to the police operation room; they are run by hotel management. However, police have the right to demand access to footage in the case of any crime.
"For many, the Al Mabhouh case was like something from a Hollywood movie - a far cry from any reality," said Lt Col Al Saleis "The Al Mabhouh case made them realise that such acts could happen here, and so they became more receptive to our calls."
wissa@thenational.ae

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