Abu Dhabi police force unlike anything anyone has come acrossNovember 17, 2022
The Abu Dhabi police force is unlike anything South Africans – or maybe anyone else – have ever come across.
Over and above the usual law enforcement operations, there is a special Happiness Patrol and a Kids Police, which reach out across the cities of Abu Dhabi in the emirate.
The Happiness Patrol is a specially liveried Mercedes Benz 500 SL, whose officers patrol the streets to find people who are actually obeying the law.
They track them and if their behaviour is consistently good, the officers pull them over and instead of writing out a ticket issue them with a voucher which can be redeemed for goods, services or even cash.
It can also be used to offset any demerits they might have against their licence for previous infractions.
Then there’s the Kids Police, a specially painted Fiat 500. “It’s a small car to change children’s attitudes about the police,” explains Captain Sultan al Saadi.
The policing might be soft-touch, but it’s underpinned by an array of technology.
Ranked as the safest city in the world for six years in a row by crowd-sourced survey Numbeo, Abu Dhabi set out to become the first “safe city” in the world in 2018 years ago.
The force is exhibiting all this, from virtual reality training to handle crime scene investigations to smart vehicle impounding, at the inaugural Global Media Congress underway at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre in the UAE.
Artificial intelligence (AI), closed-circuit TV installations on buildings and roads allow for quick response times by the emirate’s civil defence force, as well as proactive engagements through SMSes and WhatsApps to motorists when there are road hazards such as accidents, fog or rain.
Historic data used
Police patrols are not random but their routes and times are based on historic data or previous crimes, reckless driving and peak hour congestion through the monitoring of more than
250 000 registered vehicles, powered by AI analysis.
Technology is also used for the smart clamping system, whereby offenders have their vehicles clamped at home with a digital tracker, rather than having their vehicle physically impounded.
If they need to use the vehicle for an emergency, they can apply for a special pass by logging into the police website and then re-impounding the vehicle until the sentence is completed.
The net result has been to cut down road accidents and allow police to predict incidents and pre-empt crime or potential incidents of violence.
But, as Major Mohamed al Aryan explains, between the soft policing, the horse back patrols through the suburbs at night and the surveillance, there isn’t much crime in Abu Dhabi.
“When you look around at night and during the day, you’ll see most of the doors are open.”
The problem is international crime; whether drugs or cybercrime.
Here, too, AI plays a critical role, along with a pervasive awareness campaign in five different languages – Arabic, English Urdu, Filipino and Malayalam.
For cybercrimes, especially bank fraud, the Abu Dhabi police force collaborated with all the major banks in the emirate and built a special command centre.
The results, says Al Aryan, were significant.
“We track the money [when it has been stolen]. We track the people. And then we present them to the prosecutor.”
Cybercrime has been slashed by 75% since the implementation of the system, he says.
The inaugural Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi started on Monday and ends today.