x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Locals say gang violence is worse than authorities realise

Dubai Police say gang violence is not a trend, but residents say it is a growing menace.

DUBAI // For residents in several Dubai neighbourhoods, youth gang violence is a fact of life. In the eyes of police, it is a problem but not a trend.

Yousef Al Buloshi, a 30-year-old Emirati government employee who lives in Al Warqa, said that a few months ago one of his relatives, a 20-year-old man, was beaten in Oud Al Muteena because he happened to pass by a house.

"They attacked him and told him they do not want him to pass by their house," Mr Buloshi said.

Ali Aref, a 26-year-old Emirati government employee who lives in Al Warqa, said fights between young men are becoming a reality, not only in Dubai but also across the Emirates.

"It is recurring, and bladed weapons are carried by everyone, both children and grown-up," he said.

Mr Aref said he learnt that his 13-year-old brother carried a Swiss Army-type knife.

"He told me that he is carrying it on him for safety and protection, but I explained the complications of having such a weapon and took it away," he said. "Part of the problem is that it seems to be a gap between what authorities think is happening and our reality."

After last week's incident, in which an 18-year-old man was run over by a vehicle and killed in a gang fight, police have intensified their patrols in high-risk areas of Dubai. The fight was between gang members from Al Warqa and rivals from Oud Al Muteena.

Four or five patrols are deployed daily in addition to supporting CID undercover patrols, police said. Their main tasks are to disperse suspicious youth gatherings between 10pm and midnight, and to catch anyone with knives or swords.

Police insist that armed fights among youth are not a growing problem.

"It is not a trend but individual cases which we take very seriously and are combating in all our means, including awareness to children and parents alike," said Col Mohammed Nasser, deputy head of the Dubai CID for police station affairs.

A juvenile-care expert sought to explain the gap between the police view and residents' views.

"The gap might exist because the seriousness of the crime, regardless of its reoccurrence, can play a very important role in the sense of security among people and therefore the issue should be taken very seriously," said Dr Mohammed Murad, the General Secretary for the juvenile care society in Dubai and director of the Dubai Police decision-making support centre.

Another factor that contributes to this gap, Dr Murad said, is that society has a certain amount of crime that goes unreported, including youth violence.