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United Arab Emirates 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Dubai

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United Arab Emirates 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Dubai

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Dubai continues to be rated at a “Medium” threat level for crime by the State Department, which indicates the potential for moderate impact on the American community.  The Regional Security Officer (RSO) believes the crime rate is generally comparable and in some instances better than most cities of similar size around the globe.  Justification for the medium rating is derived largely from open source reporting from official RSO contacts, Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) constituents, and members of the American community.  The majority of crime is centered in high concentrations of low incomecontaining temporary laborers originating from personnel from third country nations.  These laborers, or customer service specialists, comprise the majority of inhabitants and reportedly account for over 75 percent of the population.  The majority of crimes attributable to this group consist of petty theft, assault, sexual harassment (committed primarily by males) and rare incidents of murder.  No official crime statistics have been released to the public for 2011.  However, Dubai Police publishes safety tips on their official website that can be accessed on the internet at www.dubaipolice.gov.ae.  The most prominent crimes are highlighted and the website provides basic tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.     

The host government takes measurable steps to nurture an image of safety and security.   The resulting feeling of relative safety may cause western expatriates to take fewer precautions than in their cities of origin.  At times this complacency has resulted in crimes of opportunity affecting vehicles, homes, and offices.  Additionally, white-collar crimes involving debit and credit card fraud continues to be a concern.  This seems to be the work of organized crime syndicates following the money trail leading to Dubai.

Violent criminal acts remain a rare occurrence in Dubai and are typically centered in the expatriate community described above.  All criminal actions in this portion of the population resulting in apprehensions are dealt with swiftly and harshly by the host government.  Typically, expatriates are deported following incarceration.

RSO Dubai views vehicle accidents as the greatest threat.  Serious collisions resulting in fatalities are continuously publicized in the local media.  Excessive speed, poor driving habits, and occasionally diminished visibility due to heavy fog are the usual cause of the more serious accidents. 

Political Violence

Political demonstrations are rare and must be legally permitted by host government authorities.  There were no instances of political violence in the UAE during 2011.    

The possibility of a terrorist attack against U.S. interests cannot be ruled out given the UAE's proximity to countries of concern, its importance as a major transit hub for regional travel, and the large expatriate population residing in the country.  Continued threats from terrorist groups directed against U.S. interests worldwide require that Americans residing or visiting in the region remain alert to security concerns.  Americans should always be conscientious about their surroundings, and incorporate good security practices into their daily activities. 

Post-Specific Concerns

Tensions within the greater Middle East remain and have the potential to affect security in the UAE. With a large expatriate population (well over a one million Indian nationals and close to one million Pakistanis) there is at least the theoretical possibility of reaction to events in these expatriates' home countries. However, the South Asian community in the UAE has been generally docile, law-abiding, and disinclined to do anything that would risk arrest, deportation, and loss of employment.

 The UAE continues to advance its national drug strategy, including Dubai's zero-tolerance approach that has seen the arrest and trial of U.S. citizens for carrying small quantities of banned substances, usually followed by a prison sentence of several years.  The UAE continues to intensify security at airports, land routes, seaports and coastline patrols. 

Police Response

The Dubai emergency response system number is 999 for police, medical emergencies and fire emergencies.  English-speaking operators are usually available. 

Should an American dial 911 during an emergency, the call will still be connected to Dubai Police and Emergency services.  Many international emergency phone numbers have been captured and added to Dubai's emergency call-in network with the understanding that in an emergency people tend to rely on "old" habits.

When seeking emergency assistance, callers should provide the operator/dispatcher with a detailed description of the location and the type of emergency.  Many streets in Dubai are identified by a number and letter combination (e.g., 13 D).   A recent initiative to change to street names rather than street number systems has added to confusion when giving directions.  This problem is further aggravated by vast ever-changing construction zones as Dubai builds and updates its infrastructure.  Identifying landmarks or businesses near the residence or location is essential in helping emergency personnel respond.

Police responding to the report of a crime may not always provide the same level of service as in the United States.  Most police officers below the rank of Warrant Officer are from the expatriate community and are hesitant to make independent decisions.  These officers wear green uniforms and may have limited education.  Those above the rank of Warrant Officer are generally Emirati and many have studied in Europe or the U.S.  These officers wear tan/khaki uniforms.  Decisions concerning anything other than routine matters will usually be delegated to an Emirati police supervisor. 

English fluency is not universal for expatriate officers, and English speakers are generally assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division.  Dubai Police HQ and Emergency dispatch do have a variety of language capabilities to reflect the significant population of the expatriate community. 

Investigative resources and sophisticated equipment are available to assist investigators.  The police use fingerprint and iris scan technology, creating a national registry for expatriates living and working in the UAE.  Local police will only conduct name and record checks if the individual presents himself/herself at the police station and has fingerprints taken.  This investigative process is now applicable throughout the UAE.  Americans detained or arrested are advised to notify the Mission's Consular section; please see Consular information below.

Medical Emergencies

For treatment of major life-threatening medical emergencies such as heart attack, stroke, major trauma (road accidents) or serious bleeding go to the Rashid Hospital Emergency and Trauma Center (04-337-4000) on Oud Metha Road.  By law, all motor vehicle accident victims are to be taken to Rashid Hospital.

For pediatric and OB/GYN non-traumatic medical emergencies, go to the Al Wasl Hospital (04-324-1111) on Oud Metha Rd. or American Hospital (04-336-7777) located opposite Movenpick Hotel.  If you have an established OB/GYN, you should pre-coordinate your visit.

Call 999 if you require an ambulance.  Ambulances are modern and are staffed by trained paramedics, and equipped with life-saving equipment.  Due to the lack of street addresses and construction in Dubai, directions need to be given to your location based upon prominent landmarks (directions to your home should be prepared and kept by the telephone). Do not end an emergency telephone call until you are certain that the directions are clearly understood.  If the residence is difficult to find, advise the 999 operator that you will meet the ambulance at a nearby landmark, if possible.  If you are calling from your mobile phone, the 999 operations call center has modern technology that helps responding units track your location.  Heavy traffic may also impede the ability of emergency medical services to respond in a timely manner.  Use of a personally owned vehicle for transport to a hospital should be a consideration.   Therefore, it is important to familiarize oneself with the quickest routes to emergency facilities throughout the city.

For non-life threatening emergencies or routine consultations, there are several private medical centers and medical providers available. It is strongly advised that all personnel identify and select a primary care physician and a pediatrician if required.  Making this selection will enable staff members to be established and comfortable with a doctor before potential emergencies arise.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

The crime rate in Dubai is comparable to other major metropolitan areas of comparable size in the world.  Street crimes such as pick-pocketing and petty theft do occur, and weapons are rarely used. However, it is important not to be lulled into a false sense of security.  While Dubai presents a western image, the local culture is conservative and Americans should be mindful not to offend local (Islamic) customs.  Dress should be conservative and women should avoid wearing revealing shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless attire.  These rules for dress should be observed in tourist areas as well as in the city.  Harassment of western females does occasionally occur.  Victims of harassment are encouraged to report such incidents to the U.S. Consulate in Dubai.  It is advisable for women to travel in groups or pairs, particularly during hours of darkness.  Public displays of affection are discouraged and could be considered a violation of local laws. 

Practicing good security measures can reduce your risk of becoming a victim:

  • Vary your schedule and places of activities.
  • Carry your mobile phone and keep it readily accessible. Refrain from using your mobile phone while driving.
  • Know the location of the nearest police station.
  • Have emergency numbers pre-programmed in your mobile phone.
  • Keep your vehicle windows closed , doors locked and conceal any valuables.
  • Control the keys to your residence.  If you give a key to domestic staff, consider using secondary locks.
  • Tell someone when you are out, where you are, and how you can be contacted.
  • Use light timers when away from home and be sure to lock all doors and windows.
  • Discourage children from answering the door or gate bell.  Do not open the door or gate until you have identified the visitor.  Domestic staff and dependents should be instructed to do the same and to report all unusual activity.
  • If you will be away from home for any length of time, have a friend check on your house.
  • Women should travel in groups, especially in remote areas during nighttime hours.
  • Inspect your home periodically to identify vulnerabilities or inoperative security features.
  • If someone approaches you claiming to be a police officer, ask for identification and be vigilant
  • Protect your PIN number when using Automatic Teller Machines (ATM)
  • If you feel that you are being followed, do not drive home; go to a safe area such as a police station or public area such as a shopping mall. Make noise and draw attention to yourself to ward off a suspicious person(s). Try to get a license plate number as well as description of the vehicle. When out, take note where you might go if you are followed or what you might do if cornered or confronted.  Playing the "what if" game could save your life and will give you something to do while sitting in traffic.
  • Use caution when riding in taxicabs. Do not sit in the front seat, and do not engage in idle conversation. (Being too friendly with a taxi driver may cause him to misunderstand your intentions.) Tell the driver where you want to go and leave the conversation at that. Dubai law requires the taxicab to use the meter. If the driver refuses, do not get into the taxi or get out if already inside. If there are any incidents, taxicabs have the drivers name and number posted on the back of the driver or passenger seat. Please note that the color of the taxicab's roof indicate a specific company. Most cabs in Dubai are tan except for the roofs which can vary from red, blue, green, yellow, and pink (female drivers only, in respect of female passengers). Obtain the information (taxi number, company and color of the vehicle) and call the police to report the incident.

Additional Information

The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai moved to its new location during August 2011.  We are now located at First Street, Umm Hurair-1 in Dubai.  The main Consulate phone number is 971-4-309-4000.  The Consulate’s business hours are Sunday - Thursday from 0830 to 1700. The Consulate is closed on UAE and U.S. holidays.

As the U.S. Department of State continues to develop information on any potential security threats to American’s overseas, it shares credible threat information through travel warnings and public announcements, available on the internet at www.travel.state.gov.

In addition to information on the internet, travelers can hear recorded information by calling the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their touch tone phone.  The U.S. Consulate also sends updated information regarding security threats to registered Americans within its consular district via the, “Messages to American Citizens” notification system.  The RSO encourages all American visitors to register with the U.S. Consulate Consular Section at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs.

For Consular operating hours and services please refer to https://dubai.usconsulate.gov

For all questions about U.S. visas, please contact the U.S. Consulate’s Consular section by e-mail at dubaivisa@state.gov

For all questions about American Citizen Services (ACS), please contact the U.S. Consulate’s Consular section by e-mail at dubaiwarden@state.gov

OSAC Country Council

There is currently an active Country Council in Dubai. For more information visit the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) website at www.osac.gov.