x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Undercover police track 'boy racers'

Young Emiratis driving performance cars recklessly in illegal street races are an increasing problem for Jalfar authorities.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Police are targeting motorists who take part in illegal street racing, saying young Emiratis are putting other lives at risk with their dangerous behaviour. Racers from all over the Emirates have been converging on the Jalfar area of Ras al Khaimah most nights of the week. On any given night young men driving high-end cars such as BMWs, Porsches, Ferraris and even Lamborghinis practise dangerous stunts in open spaces outside schools and homes.

Residents complain the noise of the street racing keeps them awake at night, as teenagers as young as 16, race at the gatherings, many of them without driving licences. Gen Mohammed bin Sultan al Qasimi, the head of traffic at RAK police, said: "It is hard to track these boy racers because they change locations all the time." He encouraged residents to take an active role in stopping the street races.

"If there are any illegal races going on, then residents should call the police immediately and take down the licence plate number of the cars." Parents should be aware of what their children do during evenings and school holidays, he said, adding it was "a social problem that parents are responsible for". There were only 500 police officers for Ajman and RAK and patrolling every stretch of road in the vast areas was a difficult task, said Gen Qasimi.

"Parents need to monitor their children because when we catch the racers, they will be dealt with harshly." Chasing the drag racers could be dangerous and lead to a loss of life, he added. One racer said: "You find out about these races through word of mouth, by going online and joining internet chat rooms and text messaging and the more races you go to, the more friends you make and the more invitations you get to attend.

"The danger is there, but I don't think this affects people who don't take part, as often empty quiet roads are chosen." Last week, a plea by Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, the acting director of the Dubai police traffic department, mirrored concerns previously expressed by Gen Qasimi. Col Mazrouei urged parents to stop buying their sons powerful sport cars and paying their traffic fines after concluding they had become major factors in the recklessness responsible for much of the carnage on the roads.

He said parents should not indulge in buying expensive cars and picking up the bills because it encouraged "nonchalant and dangerous" driving attitudes among young men. In 2007, more than 100 young Emiratis between the ages of 18 and 25 were arrested for racing cars, Dubai police said. Police said arrests were difficult because many of those involved in the illegal activity provided authorities with false information about their identity.

In RAK, undercover officers are now being sent out in an attempt to locate and arrest the drivers, who usually race in the early hours of the morning. One former racer said: "Sometimes we get a large number of people showing up - up to a hundred - and young men from different emirates race against each other, and it is about pride." The UAE has one of the highest rates of luxury car ownership in the world.

Dubai police urged young motorists who are looking for an adrenaline rush to use legal alternatives such as the Emirates Motorplex in Umm al Qaiwain. @Email:shafez@thenational.ae