Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

The long face of the law: meet the Abu Dhabi police horses chasing down crime

The city’s neigh-bourhood watch ensures offenders don’t get an easy ride

As they say in Abu Dhabi's horse-powered police unit, criminals have 'neigh’ place to hide.

Although suspects can hoof it into a narrow alley to evade a patrol car or outrun an officer on foot, getting away from the force’s thoroughbred contingent is no easy task.

Once used solely for crowd control at major events, since 2016 more equine patrols have been on the community beat.

Imported from France, the horses are larger than their Arabian counterparts and are fitted with silent stealth hooves to hide their recognisable clippity-clop.

We go to cricket and football matches to secure the stadiums. Even if chaos starts to break out, when the people see the horses they separate

Ahmad Sanboor

“The size of the horse plays a role,” said First Sergeant Abdullah Al Rashdi, of Abu Dhabi Police, who The National joined on a night-time patrol.

“French horses are taller than Arabian horses, so when a criminal sees the size of the horse he will think it is not easy to escape.”

A group of suspects are frozen on the spot when confronted by a pair of officers on horseback near Mushrif Mall.

“They don’t have their ID cards on them,” said fellow officer Humaid Al Shamsi.

“They probably escaped their sponsors.”

Cpl Al Shamsi uses a walkie-talkie to call for a support car to collect the suspects.

“We always work with a backup car to pick up anyone we catch or to help us arrest those who try to escape,” Cpl Al Shamsi said.

“We also work in pairs, because the horses refuse to move alone without company. If something happens, it’s good to be with a partner.”

Mounted police prepare to ride out on patrol in Abu Dhabi. Leslie Pableo for The National
Mounted police prepare to ride out on patrol in Abu Dhabi. Leslie Pableo for The National

Cpl Mohammed Al Rashdi said horses are always handy in a tight spot.

“The patrols started to provide additional security because there are tight areas where it is difficult for cars to enter,” he said.

Soundless hooves are surprisingly effective.

“Nobody can hear us enter the street,” Cpl Al Rashdi said.

“When residents see police on horses they feel more secure knowing that we are on top of criminals at all times and in all ways.

“Criminals are more deterred when they see police on a horse.

“At first when they see a horse approach from a distance they assume it is somebody’s private horse, but when we get closer they realise it is the police.

“They [offenders] usually surrender, because they know the horse will surely be faster than them.”

As well as boosting safety, the animals spark plenty of interest among the public.

“We have become celebrities; now everybody wants to take pics of us,” Cpl Al Rashdi said.

He said crime dropped in areas where horse patrols are taking place.

The patrols start in residential areas every night from 11pm until 3am.

There are afternoon beach patrols, as well in the area surrounding Saadiyat Villas every day between 4pm to 7pm.

However, hot spots remain – mostly in labourers' accommodation, where a lot of illegal immigrants can be found, the sergeant said.

The horses have proven to be particularly effective in breaking up trouble at sports events, said Ahmad Sanboor, who has been a mounted officer for 20 years.

“We go to cricket and football matches to secure the stadiums and break up any riots that may occur.

“Even if chaos starts to break out, when the people see the horses they separate.”

Updated: December 25, 2019 03:51 PM

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