x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Beggars targeted in police crackdown

Police dedicate 30 patrol cars to catching panhandlers in pre-Ramadan campaign.

DUBAI // Police will respond to complaints about beggars within five minutes, officials promised yesterday.

They have also set up a hotline and dedicated 30 patrol cars to the cause as part of an annual anti-begging campaign, launched a month before Ramadan.

"We implore the public to report incidents of beggars as we have set up a hotline number, 800 4438, and have a dedicated task force," said Brig Gen Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansoori, the director general of the CID at Dubai Police.

The task force was set up last year. It comprises the Dubai Police tourism security department, Dubai Municipality, the Immigration Department, the Dubai Public Prosecutor's office and the Islamic and Charitable Affairs Department.

In the past five years, more than 4,000 beggars have been arrested, police said. The peak was in 2006, when 1,232 were arrested. In 2010, there were 714 arrests.

Although no federal legislation addresses begging in the streets, police said the issue posed a security risk to the public.

"Executive orders have been issued earlier to combat this activity and we have discovered criminal gangs dedicated to panhandling in the country," Brig Gen Al Mansoori said.

According to the CID chief, many suspects have been presenting fake documents on the streets and asking for money, which they funnel to a ringleader. "We arrested a number of Asian people who were running such operations. They had with them people who were flown in for the task and others who were illegals," he said.

He cited as an example a woman arrested three years ago who came into the country during Ramadan and collected more than Dh100,000 in a month.

Col Mohammed Al Muhairy, the director of the tourism security department at Dubai Police, said data had been collected on begging, which helped in the fight against it.

"We have identified the peak times of the year, the peak hours and where they congregate to collect," he said.

Col Al Muhairy said beggars were most often found near mosques, Jumeirah area shopping centres, Al Satwa and at petrol stations.

"People always see beggars posing with a family in cars with foreign plates, claiming that they need the money, as well as people with medical problems or even acting handicapped - most of these people are experts and do this for a living. There are government-set channels to help them, so do not hand over any money to them," Brig Gen Al Mansoori said.

The campaign will run from July 15 until the end of Eid al Fitr.

amustafa@thenational.ae

Ÿ To contact the hotline, call 04 800 4438