Suburban informants keep cops in the know

Police say neighbourhood watch initiative is improving their relationship with the public

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DUBAI // Watchful neighbours are blowing the whistle on crimes involving drugs, prostitutes and illegal alcohol and proving to police and residents the value of a community reporting initiative.

The Neighbourhood Majlis idea, similar to a neighbourhood watch committee, aims to enhance security in the emirate by building a bridge between police and the public.

Dr Ammer Sharif, a member of the Al Murqabbat committee, said: “The majlis is an important communication channel between our neighbourhood and police. Through it, we can convey our security concerns.”

Dr Sharif, who works as an adviser at the Dubai Health Authority and lives in Abu Hail, became a member of his majlis about two months ago.

He said he agreed to join because he thought it was important to promote security. “Security is a gift, and we all need to contribute in our own way to ensure that we have it.”

He said he also hoped to attend private family majlii, which are a regular occurrence across the UAE, to pinpoint more security concerns and criminal trends.

For Dubai Police, these majalis play an integral role in enhancing security and spotting negative trends.

“They provide us with information about criminal trends developing in their neighbourhoods – like youth gatherings involving drugs. They also sometimes provide us with information that leads us to criminals,” said Col Colonel Mohammad Nasser al Razooqi, the deputy director general of police station affairs at the Criminal Investigation Department.  “These majlii have played an active role in our control of the security situation in the different areas of Dubai,” he said.

The idea of the Neighbourhood Majlis was developed by the Dubai Police in 2003, and since then most police stations in the city have formed their own committees. In total, there are 69 community members in the different majlii.

Some have as few as five members, while others have 12. It is a voluntary position, and police are responsible for choosing the members of their respective majlii.

The selection of members is based on how active the members are in society. They include UAE nationals and expatriates, and many are influential citizens.

The majlis meets with police at the station every four months to discuss their security concerns and submit proposals on criminal trends in need of extra police attention.

Last year, the different committees submitted 60 requests and security concerns, ranging from increasing traffic patrols and setting up speed bumps, to combating large gatherings of bachelors around residential buildings, and requesting that authorities clamp down on increased prostitution activities in their neighbourhoods.

Ahmed Reda al Ansari, the chief executive for Al Reda Al Ansari Exchange, is a member of Al Naif Neighbourhood Majlis.

Mr al Ansari said because many of the members were traders and businessmen, their concerns usually centred around securing their businesses. “Among the requests we made in the last year was the installation of security cameras in jewellery shops, banks and exchange houses, and to be directly linked to the police operation rooms,” he said.

The police have started work and have installed more cameras in some areas.

Mr al Ansari, who has been active in the Al Naif majlis for almost five years, said its main task was to work in the public’s interest.

“Our discussions form a connecting point between different elements of society and the authorities,” he said.

Although the level of activism differs from majlis to majlis, police are well aware of their value. Lt Col Abdullah bin Suroor, the director of Al Naif police station, said their majlis played an important role in identifying negative trends in the area. “Because members are either living or working here, they are in the best position to spot criminal trends as they develop.”