x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Hatta has a policeman in every second home

Only one car has been stolen in three years while 'people feel safe and leave belongings unattended without feeling at risk'.

Lt Col Bader Al Tunaji, centre, the director of Hatta police station, enters his office.
Lt Col Bader Al Tunaji, centre, the director of Hatta police station, enters his office.

DUBAI // In an area as rich in tribal history as Hatta, family ties can be a challenge to law enforcement.

Ali Salem Al Ka'abi, the head of quality assurance at Hatta police station, has been on the force for seven years.

"To implement the law in Hatta is unique," he said. "Around 85 per cent of the inhabitants are relatives in one way or another."

Such intricate blood ties mean an officer who pulls over a speeding driver may well be cautioning a cousin.

"There is a risk of nepotism and thus enforcing the law sometimes is more difficult and one needs to find a balance between family ties and the job," said Mr Al Ka'abi.

To find that balance, the policemen often meet with members of the public and explain the police role to them.

"We explain that we always seek to solve issues amicably but at the same time we always tell them if a report is made then it has to go through all the legal procedures," said Lt Col Bader Al Tunaji, the director of the station and one of the few in there who is not a Hatta resident.

Another measure taken is to avoid putting officers on cases connected to family. "For instance, we would make sure not to send a police officer to arrest someone from the same family," said policeman Moa'atasem Ayedos.

To ensure no one is being mistreated Dubai Police have several channels through which the public can air grievances.

"Members of the public can complain about mistreatment to ensure the law is being applied regardless of any considerations and we at the station encourage people to use these channels," said Lt Col Al Tunaji.

The first police station in Hatta was set up in 1971 and consisted of three tents that served as an office, police accommodation and a canteen. The station had two cars and eight policemen.

Mr Ayedos, an officer who has worked at the station for more than 30 years, said things had changed drastically since then.

"The police station has taken on the role of keeping order in the city now," he said. Today the station has 152 staff and 27 police cars.

There are about 9,100 people living in about 600 houses in Hatta. The community has four schools and a few restaurants, a hotel and a hospital, which was set up a year ago.

"On average, there is one policeman in every second home. If they don't work at Hatta police station, they work somewhere else for Dubai police," said Mr Al Ka'abi.

Because Hatta is a small town with tribal sensibilities, its people tend to be conservative and many crimes of a sensitive nature go unreported.

"The people of Hatta are very private; they do not like to talk about their problems. They are embarrassed to come to the police with them," said Mr Ayedos.

However, there are few serious crimes in the town. In the past three years, just one car has been stolen in the district.

"People feel safe in the city and they leave their belongings unattended without feeling at risk," said Lt Col Al Tunaji.

"If any stranger enters the city, immediately people know and can describe his characteristics immediately. And they do not mind co-operating."

wissa@thenational.ae