x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Beggars going straight to people's homes

Beggars driven from the streets by police patrols are knocking on doors to take advantage illegally of people's generosity.

Police are having to deal with the new phenomenon of organised begging in the UAE.
Police are having to deal with the new phenomenon of organised begging in the UAE.

DUBAI // Beggars driven from the streets by police patrols are knocking on doors to take illegally advantage of people's generosity during Ramadan, police have warned. In some cases groups are tricking their way into homes so they can steal money, antiques and other goods. Brig Abdul-Jalil Mahdi, deputy director of preventive security for Dubai Police, said that while the begging clampdown had worked, it had thrown up new challenges.

"Police patrols have increased more than threefold to crack down on beggars who are known to surface during the Ramadan season," said Brig Mahdi. "We have arrested many with crutches, some will wear leg casts," he said. "Many have medical records of surgery needed to help save 'dying' mothers. Others will hire children from their family or neighbours. "It is always discovered that it is a lie. Those people are healthy and just making up an excuse to take advantage and deceive members of the public."

Brig Mahdi warned that some criminals were determined and knew what they were doing. "They could strike at any time of the day and in every place imaginable," he said. "They would circulate in the souks, shopping centres, neighbourhoods, mosques and could even be driving around in a car. "Some of them, mostly women, would target people in residential areas, making door-to-door calls asking for money.

"They cannot be trusted and if they have a chance they will get into your home and steal from you." "I would like to call for the support of the public to fight this problem. There will be more arrests made if people would call police at the event that they come across these criminals." He said people should donate to charitable organisations to help the needy. Sixty-five beggars have been arrested in Dubai since the start of the holy month.

Brig Mahdi said Ramadan attracted more aggressive beggar gangs who travelled to Dubai equipped with fake medical records, falsified documents, and even children hired to use in their schemes. "The majority are illegal immigrants, who pose a threat to society and could be carriers of diseases due to not being tested," he said. "They would come in with a visit visa and work here during this month. This is their job, they go to a different Arab country every year."

Brig Mahdi added that people should never believe their stories, no matter how convincing and even if they presented "evidence" . In Abu Dhabi, beggars are becoming increasingly discreet to avoid being caught. At Animal World on Muroor Street, The National witnessed an Arab woman wander in and approach two Arab men. "My husband has cancer and is in hospital in Egypt. I am trying to raise money for his treatment and for a plane ticket home to be with him," she said. "Can you help me?"

The men tried to walk away but she followed then deeper into the store and became more persistent. "May Allah protect you and your children during this holy month," she added, extending her palm to them as they looked towards the store manager for help. The men finally gave her Dh10 each. Mohammed el Saeed, the manager of mobile phone shop Hello Future, said he had been visited by a Palestinian woman last week.

"She comes in three or four times a week asking for money. I don't let her go near the customers," Mr Saeed said. "Whenever she comes in I give her a few Dirhams as a form of zakat." Mr Saeed said he felt a sense of guilt when turning away a beggar, "especially when it's a Muslim woman who has her hair covered". rabaker@thenational.ae ealghalib@thenational.ae