DUBAI // Mahmood Moussa Ali was in Deira’s Naif district one day in 2002 when he heard people screaming “harami!”
He didn’t hesitate when he heard the Arabic word for thief. First he spotted the man. Then he chased and tackled him and brought him to the ground in an arm lock. Using his other hand he dialled 999, and held the robber down until Dubai Police officers arrived.
Without Mr Ali the thief would have made a major haul: in a pharmacy, he had snatched a woman’s purse containing Dh75,000.
Three months later police summoned Mr Ali to headquarters, where they presented him with a certificate of appreciation and a watch bearing the police logo.
It would not be the last time the 40-year-old Roads and Transport Authority parking inspector would get such a call. It has happened four times, most recently late last year after he turned in a wallet he found in the Rifa district of Bur Dubai.
In 2006, Mr Ali was on the job, again in Naif, when he saw several people running towards him, chasing a man and shouting ‘harami’.
“So I hid behind a bus so the thief couldn’t see me,” he said. “As he got close to me I stepped out and grabbed him and took him down to the ground and held him there until more people came to help.”
The man on the ground had just stolen Dh120,000, secured with a bank cash strap, that he had spotted sticking out of another man’s trouser side pocket. Again police carted the thief off and three months later Mr Ali was invited back to police headquarters where he received another logo watch and another certificate. This one recognised Mr Ali for “his involvement in maintaining public safety and security”.
Two years later, in 2008, Mr Ali was again in Rifa – on his own time, in his car – when he saw three men acting suspiciously by a car.
“I parked my car and approached them and that’s when they started running,” he said. “I had no idea why they were running, but knew there must have been a good reason. Anyway, I couldn’t catch them but went back to the Mercedes and saw at least 15 boxes of liquor in the car. I didn’t know if they were trying to steal the liquor or if it was theirs. I called the police, who found a mobile phone in the car that apparently belonged to one of the men. The police later said they had caught the men, liquor dealers who delivered alcohol to people’s houses.”
For his involvement, Mr Ali was presented with his third certificate of appreciation from the police.
Two months ago, Mr Ali was walking down the street in the Karama Souq area of Dubai with his 11 year-old son and two year-old daughter when he came across a wallet on the ground. Inside were credit cards and Dh3,000 in cash. He turned it in, and received a fourth certificate.
“I spend eight hours a day walking around in one of the oldest districts of Dubai, where sadly many crimes are committed,” he said. “I don’t go looking for problems, but when I see a problem I cannot turn my back on it. I would feel guilty if I did. This is the lesson I teach my children, to be good citizens, to get involved and to help the police.”
Mr Ali applied to become a police officer after the second incident, but was not hired because he was over 30.
His son, Mayed, 18, has been inspired by his father. “To me my father is a hero, but he doesn’t think he is,” Mayed said. “He has taught me, my brother and sisters that we all have a responsibility as Emiratis to keep our country safe. I am in university studying law and hope to one day become a police officer or prosecutor.”
Mr Ali urges anyone who sees a crime in progress or has information about illegal activity to call the police.
“Hand in hand with the police, we can all help maintain the UAE’s safety and security,” he said.