DUBAI // The number of knife crimes among the emirate's youth have risen to such a disturbing level that police have launched a campaign involving public schools.
In 2009, 27 knife crimes were reported. Just a year later that figure rose to a high of 81.
Although there was a fall to 60 last year, police say the overall trend remains disturbing. Almost a third of all crimes registered last year involving knives were carried out by people under the age of 18.
"We need to curb this worrying trend, which is new in our society," said Brig Khalil Al Mansouri, the head of Dubai Police CID.
"Awareness on the danger of possessing knives is almost non-existent in society and the aim of this campaign is to educate youths that weapons should not be carried."
Legislation to criminalise possession of knives has been under consideration by the Ministry of Justice for about a year.
The campaign, which will run until the end of this month, will involve 20 of the emirate's public schools for boys at the intermediate and secondary school levels.
There will be presentations by officers and text messages will be sent to pupils, urging them against carrying weapons.
Police will also work with schools to reach parents, who they hope will educate children against knives.
The campaign was partly inspired by the fatal stabbing of Ali Mohammed Hassan, 13, an Emirati, by five teenagers outside his Al Rashidiya home in March 2010.
Lt Col Ahmed Al Merri, the head of the investigation unit at Dubai Police and the leader of the campaign, said the case forced police to recognise crimes involving knives as a growing problem.
"Prior to that it was just individual cases and it was not a trend, but we then realised that more work needed to be done to combat it," Lt Col Al Merri said.
Although knife crime is not confined to any specific group, police say many of those arrested come from broken families, or families in which one of the parents is absent for long periods.
"Through this campaign we hope to change this practice of solving issues with knives to solving problems through logical discussions," said Lt Col Al Merri. "We want to teach our children to say no to carrying knives. We also want to activate the role of schools and parents in combating this trend."
Mohammed Ahli, the principal of Al Wahda school, welcomed the campaign.
"The use of knives by youngsters in school is still limited and last year maybe in our school there was just one incident," Mr Ahli said.
"But it is still important to educate the youth about this problem, especially as fights with knives usually occur after school hours."
Mr Ahli said that under Ministry of Education guidelines, any pupil caught with a knife would be suspended or transferred.
Police deploy patrols in neighbourhoods to ensure youth gatherings are free of knives and swords.