x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police reject call for UAE security guards to be armed

Take our poll: As security is criticised after a Dh1m armed robbery at a money exchange, guards in the Emirates admit they have no training and often feel helpless.

Should security guards in the UAE be armed? Police say not, but some employed in the industry say they feel 'helpless'.
Should security guards in the UAE be armed? Police say not, but some employed in the industry say they feel 'helpless'.

DUBAI // Security guards with deadly weapons would be more at risk of attack and would not deter armed robbers, senior police officers said yesterday.

They spoke after an audacious robbery on Sunday in which two armed, masked men stormed an exchange bureau in the middle of the day and made off with Dh1 million. Two men were arrested and are being questioned in connection with the heist.

Staff at the bureau and other witnesses criticised the absence of security, and some security guards said yesterday they would prefer to be armed, to better protect the people they were working with.

"All security guards in the UAE are hopeless," admitted Anwar Hussein, a security guard from Bangladesh who has been working in Dubai for more than three years.

Mr Hussein used to work in marketing for a bank in Bangladesh but changed his job when he moved to Dubai. He completed a security course in Bangladesh, but has received no further training since his arrival in the UAE.

"In case of an attack I cannot control anyone. I do not have anything … we are not allowed to carry anything, not even a stick," he said. "The only thing we can actually do is inform the police."

But Col Khalifa Al Saleis, director of Dubai Police's Department of Protective Systems, which oversees security providers, dismissed calls for armed guards. "It is unnecessary for the security guard to carry a weapon, there is no need for it.

"The arming of security guards is not the solution for the problem. There are other countries which adopted this approach and they were not able to curb crimes."

There are between 25,000 and 30,000 security guards in Dubai. Only those guarding money-transfer vans are permitted to carry truncheons.

The rest, a majority, may not carry weapons of any kind.

Mohammed Ataul Karim, a security guard at a bank in the Mall of the Emirates, said he felt helpless in his job without a weapon.

"If we are given a gun or anything else, it is better because when someone wants to attacks us, they will think twice when we have a weapon. He can see that I have a gun and may not attack."

Like Mr Hussein, Mr Karim had no experience of working in security before moving four years ago to Dubai from Bangladesh, where he worked as a computer operator.

"If anyone attacks me, I can't do anything," he said. "We are not allowed to keep anything to protect us. Security guards should be able to protect others.

"Now I am helpless. If I don't have a weapon, how can I protect others?"

Lt Col Naser Kathem, head of Dubai Police Academy's International Centre of Security and Safety, said the opposite was true and armed guards would be at more risk.

"Security guards would become the first target for any criminal attempt to carry out a robbery. They would attack them while now they only ask them to step aside and the security guards testimony would be strong evidence against any criminal," he said.

"Preserving evidence at crime scenes and identifying criminals to inform police are a more efficient approach, and would save lives. After all, we want to protect the lives of people."

wissa@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Preeti Kannan