Patrols discover rising value of unmarked cars

Police are rolling out more unmarked vehicles, including high-end brands and renowned sports cars, in a different approach to fighting crime, officials say. In Abu Dhabi, Col Maktoum al Sharifi, the director of the Capital Police Directorate, said his department deployed 47 patrols every night on the island, including cars of all types and foot patrols. Unmarked cars made up the majority, often 30 to 35 of the total, he said.

"We focus on violators of the law, those workers who run away from their sponsors or illegal immigrants. Those people live on stealing, shoplifting and pickpocketing and operate in suspicious places," he said. "For example, someone standing in a car park at night. What is he doing there? They keep an eye on him. If he has nothing to do, they ask him for identity cards." Col al Sharifi said that since the police began using unmarked cars in mid-2008, reports of illegal immigrants had decreased drastically.

"As police, we use all kinds of cars and everything as long as it serves our purpose of catching people unawares," he said. "Any civilian car we need to use for undercover, we use it, such as [the crossover SUV] Audi Q7." Increasing the number of unmarked cars depends on the needs of the police, such as when addressing a rise in a certain type of crime. "It is not random, generally there is no big need for them. If there is a centre that requests them, it is because they have an issue in their area," he said.

Major Gen Nasser al Naimi, the director general of the Minister of Interior's office, said police patrolling in unmarked cars would focus on traffic offences, but not to the exclusion of other responsibilities. "Police patrol cars are becoming familiar to the public, even the unmarked ones," Gen al Naimi said. "So we will take in more cars of different types, such as Range Rover, Porsche and taxis. We've already started renting cars."

Major Ahmed al Neyadi, of the Ministry of Interior, said his officers wanted to "diversify" their fleet to make it difficult for the public to identify them at a glance. * Hassan Hassan