Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 29 September 2020


Coronavirus: on the beat with Abu Dhabi's bike patrols

Officers cycle the city's streets to keep residents safe and ensure they stay home after 10pm

Parked outside a small coffee shop in Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi, a couple chat late into the night inside their car.

But as the clock nears 11pm, city police officers patrolling on bicycles are quick to spot them and intervene.

Under new coronavirus restrictions, members of the public are required to stay at home between 10pm and 6am every evening to allow streets to be disinfected.

In this case, officers took the decision to fine the pair, finding that neither had a good enough reason for remaining out so late.

“When we patrol on bikes we see things that we may not be able to see in a car,” said warrant officer Faisal Al Naqbi, 33.

Our role is to educate people about coronavirus and its precautionary measures and to give out safety masks and fines.

Officer Hamdan Al Nuaimi

“We ride through residential areas, narrow alleys and backyards. We mostly catch illegal immigrants, fugitives, drunks hiding between houses and unauthorised street vendors.”

Each night, police bicycle patrols roam Abu Dhabi’s streets in pairs, helping to ensure the safety of neighbourhoods across the city.

Officers cycle up to 30km per shift, all the while keeping an eye out for any potentially illegal activity or simply to be on hand for residents should they need help.

If they spot suspicious behaviour, they often call for backup via their 'smart helmets'. The technology allows police to communicate quickly and efficiently via Bluetooth, and is considered far quicker than traditional hand-held radio sets.

“We ride for around six hours every night during sterilisation hours,” said officer Hamdan Al Nuaimi, 31, who revealed they had caught 40 people breaking the 10pm rule in the last week.

“Our role is to educate people about coronavirus and its precautionary measures and to give out safety masks and fines.

“I can communicate with my partner or nearby patrols through my helmet. If a suspect tries to escape we surround him.”

Under the new restrictions, police are able to fine members of the public Dh2,000 for staying out later than 10pm without a valid reason.

Officers use their discretion in each instance, with some residents just given a verbal warning and a free face mask.

When police stopped Dr Husain Rangwala at around 10.30pm, he was carrying a large carton of eggs and two supermarket grocery bags.

But despite reasoning that he needed food for his wife, officers did not let him off entirely.

“I’m a doctor and I just came from work and I’m taking groceries home for suhoor,” Dr Rangwala told policemen.

Officer Al Nuaimi replied: “I know, but you had time to do that before. If you are returning from duty it is okay, but I have to warn you.”

After a brief discussion, Dr Rangwala vowed not to venture out late again and the officers decided to let him go without issuing a fine. The doctor wished them a happy Ramadan and went on his way.

“Me and my wife live together and we had nothing [in the house] for suhoor so I bought a few things,” he told The National.

“I appreciate what the local authorities are doing in Abu Dhabi, particularly since we are working very hard as doctors with Covid-19 situation.”

The policemen got back on their bikes and continued their evening patrol. The officers said they were used to cycling big distances and saw it as good exercise.

Officer Al Nuaimi said he had joined the police at 18 but only began regular cycling patrols four years ago.

“I used to be a professional cyclist at the Emirates Road Cycling Club,” he said. “The closest I came to winning a race was sixth place,” he joked.

Updated: May 13, 2020 02:13 PM

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