DUBAI // Motorcycle gangs are taking advantage of the Holy Month to cause havoc on the emirate's roads by harassing women, taking part in illegal races and clashing violently with police.
Dozens of young men have been arrested and 44 motorbikes seized by officers since the beginning of Ramadan following incidents that have included knife fights with police officers. The traffic department says such incidents have become 70 per cent more frequent than in any other month.
"The fact that Ramadan has coincided with the summer holidays has aggravated the problem. Some youngsters are sleeping throughout the day and are up all night and think it is acceptable to preoccupy themselves with such practices," said Colonel Saif Al Mazroui, the acting director of Dubai Police's traffic department.
Police say the gangs take to the streets at night to harass other motorists - particularly woman, as well as to indulge in showboating that includes driving against the flow of traffic and taking part in illegal races. Much of the reckless driving is done in full view of officers in an effort to provoke them into a chase.
The hot spots for the gangs' activities are Al Quoz, Al Waraqa, Al Khwaneej, Al Mizher and Al Mamzar, according to Dubai Police, which has set up an undercover task force called Isnad ('support') to clampdown on reckless driving.
The task force is concerned with drivers of all vehicles, but Col Al Mazroui said it was focusing during the Holy Month on "youngsters" driving motorcycles without licences as well as those who take their quad bikes on to the streets - which is illegal.
Last week officers arrested a number of gang members who belonged to a group lead by a young Emirati known as "The Ghost". The group had been harassing other motorists, particularly women, with their reckless driving and had been known to circle police patrols to provoke a chase.
The group mainly operate in Al Mamzar, but are sometimes encountered in other areas of Bur Dubai. The exact number of gang members arrested was not revealed, but officers said the majority of their bikes had been arrested.
Officers caught the group after learning the location and time of a planned meeting in Al Mamzar.
"A special team was monitoring the group and as they left Al Mamzar heading towards Al Khaleej road, 'The Ghost' leader tried to hit an undercover patrol after realising it was the police," said Col Al Mazroui. "They went back to Al Mamzar thinking they had managed to escape but they were closely followed."
The leader escaped but police were able to confiscate the motorcycle he left behind. Police say they know the identity of 'The Ghost' and believe he has shifted his activity to another emirate.
On July 31 another young man, identified only as RS, attacked three police officers in Al Qusais after his quad bike was confiscated.
"He went up to the police and he tried to provoke them and shortly after he went home and came back with a knife and threatened to attack the police officers," said Col Al Mazroui.
"He also threatened to take out the dogs from his house to attack the officers," he added.
The owner of the quad bike managed to escape but was later arrested.