An overwhelming 97 per cent of people who live in the UAE feel safe, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by The National. The 1,097 respondents to the survey, conducted from February 9 to 15, also indicated that their personal experience with crime in the country is low. For some, the nation's reputation as a low-crime zone is evidence of the truth in the aphorism: "The devil makes work for idle hands."
In the UAE, a country where the foreigners are here for only one reason, there are few idle hands. "Why is everyone here in the first place? To work," said Nadeen, a 27-year-old from Lebanon who works for Hyder Consulting and lives in Abu Dhabi. "People are afraid that if they do anything illegal they will be deported. So they behave well." The Indian manager of a sports-car parts store in the industrial area of Musaffah, near the capital, said he closed the door of his shop only as "a formality".
"I have never seen a crime here," he said. "Even things like stealing. Everyone is following the rules. There's no time for trouble." Dr Ahmad Alomosh, chairman of the sociology department at the University of Sharjah and a specialist in crime and families, said serious crime was not an issue to the vast majority of residents. He said crimes tended to be limited to quarrels between people and minor personal assaults and thefts.
Another significant factor, he said, both in the fight against crime and the fear of crime, was the widespread use of technology. "The use of cameras and radars, and technology in general, are very important in fighting crime," Dr Alomosh said. In some emirates, majorities said they felt "very safe" 72 per cent in Abu Dhabi, 52 per cent in Dubai. Perceptions of personal safety seemed linked to nationality, with 68 per cent of Emiratis and 67 per cent of Arab expatriates saying they felt "very safe", compared to 55 per cent of westerners and 48 per cent of Asians.
Nevertheless, only negligible numbers from any group felt unsafe. Not every statistic in the questions on crime was so positive. A significant number of women, 14 per cent, said they had been the victims of sexual harassment, and more than a quarter of all respondents know a victim of sexual harassment. A quarter of respondents said they had suffered verbal abuse or intimidation in public, ranging from 18 per cent of Arab expatriates to 35 per cent of westerners.
Seven per cent said they had been physically assaulted by a stranger twice as many Emiratis (14 per cent) as westerners and Asians (seven per cent) have been a victim. More than one in 10 said their UAE bank account had been fraudulently accessed, with a quarter of westerners (27 per cent) claiming to have been victims, compared with 13 per cent of Emiratis. Eight per cent said they had fallen foul of credit-card fraud.
But the clear majority (77 per cent) felt that, compared with other multicultural countries around the world, the UAE had a low crime rate. Expatriate Arabs (83 per cent) and Emiratis (79 per cent) gave the highest marks to the UAE; westerners were slightly less sure 70 per cent felt the crime rate compared favourably to other multicultural countries. Four out of five people said they felt safe walking alone after dark, though whereas in Abu Dhabi 50 per cent strongly agreed, this percentage was significantly lower in Dubai (38 per cent), Sharjah (36 per cent) and the other emirates (27 per cent).
Such confidence was also higher among men (52 per cent) than among women (18 per cent), of whom 32 per cent overall did not feel safe walking alone. Among national groups, Emiratis (35 per cent) felt the least safe walking alone after dark in their own country, compared with only 11 per cent of Arab expatriates and 10 per cent of westerners. These two groups also felt the safest 88 and 90 per cent, respectively.
Predictably, perhaps, safety perceptions fell sharply when it came to the well-being of other family members and children. Only 44 per cent were comfortable with them walking alone after dark compared with the 80 per cent vote for personal safety and 47 per cent were distinctly uncomfortable. Among national groups, most disquiet was expressed by Emiratis, 55 per cent of whom were uncomfortable with the idea of family members walking alone after dark, followed by Asians (52 per cent), Arab expatriates (41 per cent) and westerners (37 per cent).
Only a little over three-quarters of respondents (78 per cent) said they felt safe taking a taxi ride alone at any time of day or night. More women (37 per cent) than men (10 per cent) felt unsafe in a taxi. firstname.lastname@example.org
To see the results of all surveys by The National and YouGov visit www.thenational.ae/yougov