ABU DHABI // The emirate's police intend to set up a network of "friends" in every school, neighbourhood and company to help address crime and social issues and form better relationships with the community. They hope the increased contact with the community will spread awareness of social issues, raise mutual respect and help cut crimes such as drug abuse and traffic offences. The community police departments in the capital and Al Ain are establishing the networks under two major projects, one in schools and the other in businesses and residential neighbourhoods.
The campaigns follow a significant expansion of the workload and public profile of the community police in the past year. Major Mubarak bin Mhairoum al Amiri, the acting director of Abu Dhabi community police department, said the mission of the community police was to spread a culture of social security and awareness. "[It is to] create a secure and friendly environment in residential areas, provide the best services, facilitate official procedures, increase trust, mutual respect and co-operation," he said.
Under the Friends of the Police project that will run in schools, three pupils will be chosen to work with a group of adults, including representatives from the community police, the schools and a parents' council. The groups will be overseen by the head of the community police. In addition one child in every class will also be selected to join the programme, working as part of a second tier of friends.
Participants will undergo training, which will include information about the role of the community police and school security. They will also be given information about specific police priorities and programmes, which will initially include campaigns on the harm caused by drugs and smoking, and raising traffic safety awareness. The second project, the Meeting of Partners, will have a similar structure, but include representatives from government departments and private companies, as well as people in each residential neighbourhood.
The police said the Partners project aimed to encourage closer co-operation between police and different sectors of society. People spoken to by The National yesterday welcomed the plans to form stronger relationships through the two new projects. Faisal Said al Qbaisi, a 28-year-old Emirati, said the community police perform a vital function because most people do not want to involve courts in family disputes. Parents who have trouble with their children prefer to go to the community police.
"They don't want trouble for their children, they only hope to get their children to sign a commitment statement," said Mr Qbaisi. He added that many people were not aware of the services provided by the community police and said there should be more awareness campaigns by the police and media. Zahid Hussain, a taxi driver from Pakistan, said that although he had never been involved in a conflict that was resolved by the community police, he was aware of their existence. "They wear green clothes and settle disputes between taxi drivers," he said.
Major Amiri said the community police, who deal with minor cases, crimes and complaints, had been working hard for the past year to improve community relations. He said a significant rise in the number of cases dealt with by the unit in 2008 compared with the previous year indicated more people were turning to police for help. The unit handled twice as many cases last year compared with the previous year. Among the cases dealt with were 2,894 traffic files, compared with 1,668 in 2007; 2,033 social disputes, compared with 550 disputes in 2007; and 6,0958 minor crimes and disorders, compared with 3,626. They undertook 5,449 public services, including awareness campaigns and visits to schools and malls, compared with 2532 in 2007.
Farida al Wohaibi, a 14-year-old fifth grader, said the police participated in a number of celebrations at her school, most recently the National Day. "The police came and sang the national anthem for us, and then met with the students representatives who are usually a student from every class," she said. There is a social specialist at her school who caters for the needs of students and liasies with authorities, including police, she said.
In November last year, a UN delegation described Abu Dhabi community police as a role model for other countries to follow. firstname.lastname@example.org