x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Attempted abduction prompts safety alert

Schools are urging parents to be vigilant after a mother reported her child was almost abducted from the Union Co-op on Al Wasl Road, Dubai.

DUBAI // Schools stepped up security and urged increased vigilance on parents yesterday after the attempted abduction of a child.

The incident happened near the Union Co-operative Society supermarket on Al Wasl Road on Sunday. The child's mother reported it to the principal of Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS).

"It has been reported to the police who are investigating," Ruth Burke, a head teacher at the school, said in a circular sent to parents and other school heads. "While Dubai is generally recognised as a relatively safe environment it is clear that high levels of vigilance are required from us all," the circular said.

Other schools have reported pupils being approached by strangers outside school grounds.

"We have tightened security and maintain a log for every person who enters the school," said Mark Ford, principal of Dubai British School in the Springs.

"This is not the first time this has happened. One of the first incidents was in the Springs and Emirates Hills where children were being approached by strangers."

He said three or four circulars on the topic had already been sent out to parents.

Mr Ford said they did not want to cause panic among parents, "but we urge them to take reasonable and sensible precautions".

The school holds regular talks with pupils and educates them on how to deal with potential threats, and they were also working with the developer Emaar and Dubai CID to increase the security of the whole community.

"After we alerted them, there have been more patrols," he said.

Andy Homden, principal of the Jumeirah Baccalaureate School, said they would also be alerting parents through newsletters this week.

"For older pupils, we suggested bringing in a self-defence expert to show them what they can do if they get into a difficult situation.

"It's harder for the primary group, so we keep telling them not to trust anybody, do not go near a car even if they are offering sweets."

Jebel Ali Primary School circulated JESS's letter to parents yesterday and asked them to be more attentive.

Angela O'Rourke, who has two young children at a school in Al Safa, said she had not expected to hear about such an incident in Dubai.

"We recently received a letter from the school about something that occurred with another child," she said.

"The boy was on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle was following him.

"There is a general feeling of safety here, but I think now we are hearing a lot about sexual crimes and that is very troubling."

Nicola Hines, 33, whose daughter is a primary pupil at Dubai British School, said recent incidents worried her too.

"These issues have been communicated to us by the school and we were told to be more careful," she said.

"You need to keep the kids safe and teach them how to protect themselves. I tell them what can potentially happen and how to react, like scream 'stranger danger' if anyone tries to come too close."

Dubai Police could not be reached for comment.