Police called in to tackle 'epidemic' of illegal hawkers

Illegal street vendors a problem, police are told.

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SHARJAH // Police in Sharjah have been asked to draw up a strategy to counter the increasing numbers of illegal street vendors.

Ali Owais, of Sharjah Consultative Council, said the problem was reaching epidemic proportions, but he had great trust in the police, he told a meeting of the council.

"They have managed to stop illegal beggars from spreading before, and now another big problem of illegal vendors - including children - is on our doorstep.

"Everything legal should be done to stop this illegal work as it blackmails this country, making it look untidy."

Vendors can be found selling an assortment of goods on Sharjah streets, including water, nuts and pens.

Major General Humaid Mohammed al Hudaidi, director general of Sharjah Police, said most illegal vendors were illegal residents forced onto the street by trying economic conditions, he said.

"Many have either lost their jobs or come to this country to find jobs and could not. Their visas expired and they became illegals and started offering illegal services."

He said the municipality bore the brunt of the responsibility in dealing with them: only after their inspectors had arrested an illegal vendor could they involve the police.

The director general of operations at Sharjah Police, Col Mohammed Eid al Madhloom, said 50 cameras monitoring hotels and tourist areas were directly linked to the police operations room.

In answer to questions about privacy concerns from a female council member, he said there were 511 female police officers.

Council members also expressed concern about the lack of English-speaking officers to communicate with non-Arabic speakers.

"We have several multilingual officers," said Maj Gen al Hudaidi. "They speak not only English but also several Asian languages. We are also co-operating with all English-language newspapers in our outreach campaigns."

Other concerns raised at the meeting included possession of weapons, especially knives among children; an increase in bounced cheques; and traffic violations.

The work of police was made easier by co-operation from the community and government departments, Maj Gen al Hudaidi said: "We are pleased to be here among council members to account for our work and get advice on the best policies that can safeguard our security."

Dr Obaid bin Saif al Hajri, the speaker of the council, said Sharjah was fortunate to have a disciplined police force committed to securing the safety of its people.

"In a world dominated by chaos and crime, we in the UAE are the exception. We have guaranteed security and rule of law implemented by our good brothers in the police force."