Police trying to stop rising number of cable thefts

Dubai police say they arrested nearly 500 people so far this year in cable theft cases.

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DUBAI // Police say they are working to curb the "trend" of cable thefts, noting that more than 190 such cases have been investigated in the last two yaers.

"We spotted an increase of cable thefts, through the analysis of crime trends, and developed special security programmes to combat them," said Col Mohammed Nasser, the deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Department of police station affairs.

So far this year, 84 cases involving more than 484 suspects have been reported. In all of 2010, there were 108 cable thefts involving 554 suspects, police said. The thefts occur mainly in open remote areas and constructions sites.

"Cable thefts are not a crime confined to Dubai or the UAE, but are a Gulf phenomenon which is thriving due to the big demand on these cables in our region," said Col Ahmed bin Ghalita, head of the crime prevention department at Dubai Police.

The price of one tonne of copper is about Dh35,000 but police did not disclose the total quantity stolen. In Al Qusais alone, however, more than Dh245,000 worth of copper cable was stolen this year, amounting to more than half of all thefts.

Among those arrested in the past two years were 26 traders who owned scrap warehouses.

Police said elements of three security programmes were aimed at curbing cable thefts.

The first "Security Gaps" looks for security problems at sites that might be attractive to theives.

"It is a programme where we identify security gaps and we put measures in place to fill them. We also try to engage members of society to report anything unusual they notice. In a nutshell it is a programme which aims to give police more eyes, ears, hands and mouths," Col bin Ghalita said.

Through this programme, police and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority have set up surveillance at the 2,000 electricity substations scattered across the city. Communications towers and many construction sites were addressed with the help of their owners.

The other two security programmes, "Dubai Eyes", which allows officers in the operations room to look at live CCTV footage, and "Gates of the City", which concentrates resources on the emirate's exit points, also address cable theft, officials said.

"The majority of the stolen items are taken out through the east and we aim to control these exits to catch the perpetrators," Col bin Ghalita said.

Al Qusais, meanwhile, got more attention from police in the form of officers, cameras and public outreach.

"The programmes have started to slowly pay off, as so far this year we have witnessed a slight decrease in such crimes," said Lt Col Ahmed al Merri, head of the criminal investigation unit.