DUBAI // First, they heard the screaming siren, and then they saw the flashing light. But the question is, was it really the police?
Young drivers in Dubai are buying devices that replicate the flashing light and wailing sound produced by a genuine police siren, and are using it to bypass heavy traffic, according to police. Police yesterday warned civilians that buying and selling such devices is illegal and offenders can be prosecuted.
However, the exact nature of the punishment for offenders is unclear.
Lt Col Aref Bushkar, director of the police department in Al Qusais, said there had been a marked increase in the use of these devices throughout the emirate.
The small black boxes, which emit both sound and a flashing light, are sold with an accompanying adapter for use with a car's cigarette lighter.
Lt Col Bushkar said the devices were usually sold at car accessory shops. "We will be on the lookout for youths who use these sirens on streets, roads and highways, endangering their lives and the lives of others," he said.
"We also want to warn stores from selling this product, in order to avoid legal prosecution."
Lt Col Bushkar said that police had intercepted several young men who had been caught speeding through congested areas by using the fake sirens, allowing them to pose as drivers of police or emergency vehicles.
He said the latest perpetrator was caught in Al Qusais last Friday.
"The owner of the vehicle was using a fake siren that he had bought from stores that should not be selling it," said Lt Col Bushkar.
The device used 220 volts connected to an adapter that converted it to 12 volts, he said. This allowed the device to be attached to the power outlet in a motor vehicle.
"Other cars were making way for the car with the siren, believing it to be a police vehicle."
The use of sirens by private citizens was illegal and could result in a severe fine, said Lt Col Bushkar. It also presented a fire hazard to the driver of the vehicle, he said.
"There is a possibility that the adapter may short circuit, and lead to the car catching fire," he said.
Police patrols were trained in evasive driving and in controlling a vehicle when it is speeding, said Lt Col Bushkar.
But civilians who imitate police endanger themselves and the general public, he said.