DUBAI // New laws are being drafted to address a rising trend of youth violence, including amendments to the juvenile criminal code and a law to regulate knives and swords, collectively referred to as "cold weapons".
A third of juvenile crimes reported in Dubai this year were assault cases, according to newly released police statistics.
In the first three months of this year, 20 juvenile assault cases were reported. By comparison, 51 juvenile assault cases were reported throughout the whole of last year, and 55 in 2009.
A 13-year-old Emirati, Ali Mohammed Hassan, was stabbed 12 times and left to die during a street brawl last year in Rashidiya.
Brig Khalil al Mansouri, director of the Dubai Police Criminal Investigation Department, said the phenomenon of young people using cold weapons in violent assaults only appeared six to seven years ago.
"It started with children fighting in the streets using these kitchen knives and pocket knives and then developed into a more organised gang mentality," he said.
According to Khalid al Kamda, the director general of Dubai's Community Development Authority (CDA), the increasing number of cases and incidents has established violent youth crimes as a new phenomenon in the country.
"This issue is not concerning one emirate or portion of society; this extends throughout the country and affects all members of society," he said.
At an open forum on youth and violent crime held by CDA yesterday, Major Turki al Dahoori, from the Ministry of Interior, said new laws were being drafted to address violent youth crimes. He said the ministries of Justice, Social Affairs and the Interior were working together to draft legislation to supplement the 1976 Juvenile Criminal Code.
Hussein al Shawab, director of the social protection department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said: "An example of the proposed law amendment for juveniles is Article 13, which states that children under the age of 15 are not allowed to be on their own or without supervision after dark. Also, children under that age are not allowed to go to suspicious areas where adult activities are undertaken."
Mr al Shawab added that the proposed law for juveniles would bar children from owning or carrying cold weapons at all times. "We will only allow for the use of knives, swords and such items under three conditions: for sports uses, under parental guidance or for educational purposes," he said.
Federal government representatives said a dedicated cold weapons law, separate from the UAE Firearms Law, was needed to regulate the availability of knives and swords to young people.
In 2008, the FNC's Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs (CDIA) attempted to include blade weapons in the UAE Firearms Law. According to Ali Majid al Matrooshi, head of CDIA, the Ministry of Interior said regulation should be left to municipal control.
"The cold weapons law being drafted is different to the firearms law," said Maj al Dahoori. "This will be a separate one dealing directly with the dual-use items that can be used as weapons. We will specify what cold weapons are and catalogue them."
The law will include regulation clauses that limit the sale of items that may be classified as cold weapons to children.
Dubai Juvenile Court Judge Omar Karmastagy earlier described the availability of cold weapons at several outlets and shopping centres. "I went myself to the market and saw how anyone at any age can buy such a weapon," he said.
He added that many boys had told him they would carry their knives 24 hours a day, just in case anything happened.
The judge said the new law should not allow anyone to bring such weapons into the country, even if they were antiques.
A number of recommendations were made at the close of the CDA forum, including the creation of a government task force to combat cold weapon crimes by youths. Other recommendations included increasing surveillance in schools and universities; a complete study to assess the cold weapon crime rate and source; and the regulation of violent electronic games.
* With additional reporting by Wafa Issa