x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Beachgoers welcome security moves

Some beachgoers welcome the increased security at the open beach, but others say there was confusion over the clamp down.

Dubai is working to clean up behaviour on beaches, including Jumeirah Public Beach.
Dubai is working to clean up behaviour on beaches, including Jumeirah Public Beach.

DUBAI // As the sun set behind the Burj Al Arab one night this week, the lights of the towering hotel began to shine brightly over the dark beach below. The lights will soon be eclipsed by floodlights the authorities hope will expose inappropriate behaviour as they continue their efforts to clean up the beaches, including Jumeirah Public Beach. People using the beaches this week said they were surprised by the number of patrols by security personnel and plainclothes police.

Lifeguards said several people had been warned for inappropriate behaviour including immodest sunbathing and public displays of affection between couples, such as kissing. "Things are not the same as before as we see a lot more officers in civil clothes, especially on weekends when the beach is packed with visitors," said one lifeguard at the open beach, who did not want to be named. "Our security staff also do regular rounds of the beach and warn people against any behaviour that is not allowed."

Earlier this month, Abdullah Mohammed Rafia, the assistant director general for environment and public health affairs at Dubai Municipality, said more security staff had been directed to the open beach after the arrest of two Britons allegedly caught by police behaving indecently. He also said floodlights would be installed at the beaches to ensure visibility at night. "If they put in floodlights, I'd welcome it as it is a good idea," said Ahmed Zaher, a beachgoer. "It is dark down here, but I'm not so bothered by it. I don't know what is going on elsewhere, but I am here for a swim with my friends. I have been here a number of times and have never seen any trouble."

The only lights on the beach are from camera flashes by holidaymakers and groups of workers. "We come here all the time and we always see the police," said one Filipina. "The other beach on the other side has too many police, though. It is nice here and we always come down here on our day off so we can relax. We don't cause any trouble. We like to take a swim even if it's dark." A security officer at the open beach said yesterday that dozens of people were rounded up by police last week for obscenity and breaking rules, but most were warned and let off.

"There is an obvious increase in the number of officers and the security staff," he said. "It is clear that no wrong behaviour, by bachelors or couples, would be tolerated." Signs warning against topless sunbathing and nudity will be put up at Jumeirah Public Beach, Jumeirah Beach Park and Mamzar Beach. Authorities say the measures follow repeated complaints about overexposure and obscenity at the beaches.

Earlier this month, Dubai police said 79 people were arrested in two weeks for indecency on beaches. While some beachgoers welcomed the increased security at the open beach, others said there was confusion over the clamp down. "Families and couples looking for a good day at the beach will only welcome such security, said Ragini Seth, a Dubai resident. Many others were uncertain what constituted obscene behaviour.

"There is lot of uncertainty on what we can do and what is forbidden. Couples having a good time at the beach are bound to get close," said James Krammer, a beachgoer. A recently arrived French resident said he had not noticed any police at the beach. "What does it matter to me? I mind my own business, I came here for a swim and nothing else. I will come back," he said. When The National visited the beach one evening, it was hard to spot the plainclothes police. "You never know when they'll appear," a Filipina said.

* Additional reporting by Eugene Harnan @Email:pmenon@thenational.ae