Thefts and burglaries
The UAE has a reputation for a low crime rate. However, that situation is gradually changing as the city grows. People still leave doors unlocked, go shopping with handbags gaping open and leave cars running and unlocked when they pop to the shops or pick up their kids from school. However, the unlucky few are finding that things do get stolen. Thieves seem to be targeting wealthy expats. Money is being stolen from the unlocked cars in the car parks of private schools, villas with no alarm systems are being broken into during the summer months when the residents are away on holiday and pickpockets have begun frequenting the many malls. With a few precautions, most of which you would take in any country, many of these crimes could be avoided. However, many of the ex-pats who have been in the area for a long time seem reluctant to change their ways.
Although thefts and burglaries seem to be on the increase, a crime against individuals is extremely rare. Most violent crimes occur within the local community and rarely spill over into the ex-pat community. Violent crimes which do occur in the ex-pat community are usually business-related incidents of domestic violence or targeted attacks on specific individuals. Officials say that tourists and ex-pats have little to worry about but normal precautions should be taken.
By far and away the greatest danger comes from the roads. There are as many different driving styles as there are nationalities. Driving is aggressive, fast, and often erratic. Reckless driving sometimes seems to be the rule rather than the exception. The situation is improving, however. Digital speed cameras have been placed on all major highways at 2km intervals. These pick up people who are speeding, tailgating, using hand-held mobile phones, and traveling without seat belts. Fines for speeding start at AED 400 and the driver may lose points from their license. Repeat offenders may find their cars impounded, their driving licenses suspended, and even face imprisonment. As a result, the roads are starting to become safer but defensive driving is still necessary.
The beaches in Dubai look idyllic with sandy shores and calm seas. However, there are strong undercurrents that can catch out both experienced and inexperienced swimmers. Green flags fly on the beaches when it is safe to go in the water. Yellow flags indicate that swimmers should exercise caution and red flags are flying when conditions are very dangerous and swimmers must stay out of the water. Cases of people drowning or nearly drowning occur relatively frequently. Most cases happen at night when swimming in the sea is not allowed and tend to involve people who cannot swim well.
Safety for Women
The UAE has the highest male to female ratio with men making up 68% of the population and women making up just 32%. Most of these men are low-paid ex-pat workers. Some of these men can be seen on the public beaches on the weekends, fully clothed, and their attention can make female beach-goers feel very uncomfortable. The police are trying to crack down on this. There are regular police patrols, especially during weekends and public holidays and towers have been set up where officers can monitor what is happening. Beach-goers can phone the police on 04 266 1228 or 04 203 6398 to report any beach pests. The response time is almost immediate and the men are required to sign a form promising not to repeat the offense or in serious cases, are arrested.
Other incidents of harassment occur where men misinterpret a woman’s friendliness. Women who are dressed less conservatively or who engage in small talk with men in shops, cafes or taxis may find themselves the victims of verbal and sometimes physical harassment. Most of the time, this is a result of cultural misunderstandings. If women are careful not to unwittingly send out any wrong signals, they will find that Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world.
The threat of terrorism exists all around the world and although Dubai looks like a Western city, the UAE is still a Middle Eastern country. There are people who are concerned about how open Dubai is and it is conceivable that this could make the city a target. It is also believed that a large number of Western expatriates could be potential targets. Until now, the UAE has managed to protect itself against the threat of terrorism. To a large extent, this is due to its very efficient and highly trained police, security and intelligence services. Tourism is very important to the economy of Dubai and extreme care is taken to ensure that nothing threatens the sense of safety and security that foreigners feel in the city. Having said that, ex-pats should be aware of and take responsibility for their own security, just as they would in any other city.