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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

'Social officers' could help fight juvenile crime in Abu Dhabi

Officials at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department say these officers could play a liaison role with the authorities 

Schools in Abu Dhabi should hire “social officers” as part of government efforts to cut juvenile crime, a prosecutor said.

Officials at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department said these officers, posted in schools, could play a liaison role with the authorities and resolve issues between young people.

Under UAE law, a juvenile is defined as someone who is between seven and 18 years old.

According to official data, the number of cases of juvenile theft jumped almost 15 per cent between 2016 and 2017, up from 199 to 229. But statistics also showed a 27 per cent fall in physical assaults by minors – down from 166 to 120.

Ateqa Al Katheeri, lead prosecutor at the Al Ain Family and Child Affairs Court, said a large number of juvenile crimes occurred at school.

“It’s often because juveniles want to appear brave and show off in front of their friends,” she said. “Other factors can be due to the home environment where young girls and boys are raised in an aggressive, neglectful and intolerant home.

“Violent video games and movies which promote murder, violence and breaking the law can also be an issue.”

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Read more:

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Last month, parents called for tighter controls to protect pupils after a survey in Dubai showed that many children felt unsafe in the classroom.

The 2017 research from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai showed that 11 per cent of the 64,686 pupils polled did not feel safe when at school.

A similar study in Abu Dhabi revealed that one in three pupils in the capital have been attacked at school.

In June, video footage showing pupils wrecking a classroom in the UAE was widely shared on social media.The footage was condemned by the Ministry of Education.

Outside of school premises, official figures show the number of recorded juvenile offences in Abu Dhabi emirate dropped by 25 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

Courts dealt with 1,402 cases in 2016 compared with 1,051 last year. About 120 of the 1,051 offences last year involved physical assault.

Traffic offences by juveniles also dropped, falling from 687 in 2016 to 423 last year.

“The numbers have gone down but we need to eradicate [offending],” Ms Al Katheeri said.

Assaults are considered an offence if the victim becomes ill or suffers permanent disability. Attacks deemed to be intentional carry a seven-year jail term.

On Wednesday, Mrs Al Katheeri said her department had worked hard to prevent offending among juveniles. It collaborates with police and the social services and raises awareness about the causes of assaults through campaign work.

She said more work was needed, however, and that bringing “social officers” into schools would be a step forward. She also called for more police patrols around schools at the start and end of each day.

“A social officer – in addition to a social worker – can help prevent these offences arising,” she said. “The role will provide a useful link between the department and schools.

“We also urge schools to implement serious disciplinary punishments – such as expulsions – where appropriate. Summoning parents to school to discuss the issue can help.

“Parents also need to be invited to programmes to help them understand the necessity of warning their children about the dangers of assaults.”