x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cops play robbers: Sharjah Police campaign against car thieves and careless motorists

Motorists in Sharjah who leave their engines running for a quick nip into the supermarket are in for a rude shock...

Sharjah police distribute brochures to motorists reminding them not to leave their cars unattended with the key in the ignition. Courtesy Sharjah Police
Sharjah police distribute brochures to motorists reminding them not to leave their cars unattended with the key in the ignition. Courtesy Sharjah Police

SHARJAH // Police have brought a bit of Candid Camera into law enforcement, driving off cars that have been left with their engines running, then filming their owners’ reactions.

In a campaign to make life harder for those who steal cars or their contents, officers drive vehicles left running to a safe spot nearby.

When the frantic owner returns to the now empty parking spot a team of officers approaches, having filmed the whole thing.

Victims of the tactic on Bank Street yesterday said it worked.

Taxi driver Majid Fiqar said the “Stolen for the Sake of Awareness” campaign made him realise what a shock losing his company’s cab for real would be.

“Thieves do not always target taxis but still I do not want it to happen,” Mr Fiqar said.

Ahmed Hammad, director of media awareness at Sharjah Police, hoped the campaign would give thieves who find unlocked cars irresistible fewer opportunities.

“We set up a watch team that monitors cars parked on busy streets outside banks and malls,” Mr Hammad said. “Once the car is found with the engine on and no driver, the police officers drive it away.

“The other team of officers, including camera men, will be on the sides recording the reaction of the driver once he returns to find his car missing.”

The owner is then taken to the car, which is watched by officers, and hopefully the lesson is learnt.

Mr Hammad said police regularly received reports of thefts of unlocked cars, or valuables left inside them.

“The victims of these thefts had mostly left everything in the car from mobile phones to laptops, money and sometimes even their children, as in the case of an Arab man whose car was stolen from outside Mega Mall last year,” he said.

“The thieves abandoned the car after they saw two children sleeping on the back seats.”

Drivers whose cars are moved do not face fines, said Mr Hammad.

In one video shot by police, a visibly shaken motorist was forced to ask passers-by for help as he had left his mobile phone in the car.

After spending several minutes pleading with people to call the police, officers approached him. And after watching the video, he promised not to make the same mistake again.

Adnan Ahmad, another caught by the campaign, said he was relieved to have only lost his car to the police temporarily, rather than to thieves for good.

“You think thieves have stolen the car and it turns out that the police have taken it,” Mr Ahmad said, adding officers should keep it up while the campaign is still relatively unknown.

Mr Hammad said police were also distributing brochures to motorists in Arabic, English and Urdu, warning them not to leave their cars unattended.

ykakande@thenational.ae