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United Arab Emirates 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Abu Dhabi

Near East > United Arab Emirates; Near East > United Arab Emirates > Abu Dhabi

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report.  The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ABU DHABI AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Abu Dhabi-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi’s RSO utilizes open source reporting and discussion with embassy officials and private citizens. Criminal statistics are difficult to measure due to the host government’s policy of not releasing crime information. In comparison to similarly sized cities worldwide, Abu Dhabi’s crime rate appears to be significantly lower. However, U.S. nationals should not be lulled into a false sense of security due to a lower crime rate. Complacency and failure to follow basic security measures as in any major city have resulted in theft and harassment cases.

Pickpocketing, petty theft, scams, assault, and sexual harassment do occur. These crimes are often non-confrontational, and weapons are rarely used. Petty thefts do occur often within the large expatriate workforce, which accounts for more than 85% of the population. However, most Western travelers are not impacted by crime, and while violent crimes and crimes against property do occur, they are infrequent.

Carry your mobile phone with emergency numbers pre-programmed and do not use your phone while driving. If possible, let a friend or acquaintance know when you are out, where you will be, how you can be reached and when you are expected to return.

Cybersecurity Issues

U.S. citizens have been the victims of email scams seemingly originating from the UAE. Given the transnational nature of cybercrime, employees of the U.S. government and private corporations should evaluate cyber best practices and make every attempt to password protect information systems. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in the UAE, and unsafe driving practices are common. Reckless drivers, fog, unmarked speed bumps, and drifting sand create unsafe road conditions.

Police patrols and cameras are located at most intersections, and traffic enforcement is taken very seriously. Law enforcement targets speeders, erratic drivers, and those using cell phones while driving. Fines are expensive. Red light offenses are especially serious, resulting in large fines, points on a driver’s license, and possible jail time combined with impounding the offending vehicle for up to 30 days. Drinking and driving and alcohol-related incidents are considered serious offenses and can result in arrest, jail time, heavy fines, and deportation The legal blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.0 percent, so one can be arrested even if s/he has an alcohol permit from Ministry of Interior.

Traffic lights change quickly, and due to the presence of police cameras, drivers often come to an abrupt stop, causing rear-end collisions. Vehicles frequently turn from non-designated turning lanes at major intersections, and taxis make frequent stops in undesignated locations to pick up passengers, so it is important to pay close attention to surrounding traffic. Traffic circle behavior is counterintuitive, as right turns are taken from the second lane in.

If you are being followed, do not drive home. Go to a safe location (a police station or a familiar, populated area). Draw attention to yourself to ward off suspicious person(s). If being followed in a vehicle, try to obtain a license plate number and vehicle description.

Persons involved in accidents in which another party is injured automatically go to jail until the injured person is released from the hospital. In addition, if the Saaed officer (road service contracted by the Abu Dhabi police to respond to accidents) at the scene cannot determine who is at fault, a traffic police officer will be contacted to resolve the situation. If fault is still not determined, both parties will be taken to the local police station to resolve the situation. Even relatively minor accidents may result in lengthy proceedings, during which both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country.

Public Transportation Conditions

Exercise caution when taking taxi cabs. Do not sit in the front seat and do not engage in idle conversation. Being too friendly with the driver may cause the driver to misunderstand your intentions, especially if you are female. Tell the driver where you want to go and end the conversation. Abu Dhabi law requires the taxicab to use the meter. If the driver refuses, do not enter the taxi or exit if you are already inside. If there are any incidents, taxicabs have the driver’s name and ID number posted on the back of the driver/passenger seat or on the computer screen on the dashboard. Record the information, call the police and report the incident.

Ride hailing services (Uber, Careem) are considered safe and reliable; however, as of late 2016, Uber discontinued service in Abu Dhabi.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Abu Dhabi International Airport is a modern hub with rigorous security standards. Airport security now requires all passengers to undergo a retinal scan upon arrival/departure.

The U.S. Embassy strongly advises travelers, including all U.S. government personnel and those transiting UAE airports, to avoid the transport of any arms or items that may be considered law enforcement or military equipment without prior written approval from the Ministry of Defense. Such items include, but are not limited to: weapons, weapon parts/tools, ammunition (even one bullet or shell casing), body armor, handcuffs, and any other military or police equipment. Transport of these items is considered a violation of UAE law. Persons found to be carrying such items, even in the smallest quantities, will be arrested and face strict criminal penalties (imprisonment, large monetary fines, forfeiture of the items, deportation). U.S. citizens without written authorization from the UAE government have been arrested and jailed, even though airlines and U.S. authorities allowed shipment on a U.S.-originating flight.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ABU DHABI AS BEING A MEDIUM - THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The Department of State remains concerned about the global threat of terrorism, including the continuing possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests in the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. The continued threat posed by various terrorist groups seeking to target U.S. interests requires Americans working or traveling in the UAE to remain vigilant, maintain a low profile, and vary routes, times, and routines.

The continued threat of terrorism is also exacerbated by tensions and instability in the Middle East. Elevated security threats have the potential to affect security in the UAE, particularly as the UAE continues taking on a more prominent role countering extremism in the region.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ABU DHABI AS BEING A LOW - THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest 

Political demonstrations are rare and must have prior approval from the government.

Post-specific Concerns

Personal Identity Concerns

The UAE’s large expatriate population, which includes several million Indian and Pakistani nationals, increases the possibility that activities in their native countries could impact security in the UAE. However, the UAE’s South Asian community is generally law-abiding and disinclined to commit criminal acts that would risk arrest, deportation, and the loss of employment.

While individuals are free to worship as they choose, and religious facilities are available, proselytizing is not permitted in the UAE. 

While the UAE is less traditional in its outlook than some other Islamic countries, the local culture is conservative, and Americans should be careful not to offend local (Islamic) sensibilities. Western females are occasionally harassed. Dress should be respectful and appropriate for the given location (more conservative while touring holy sites, tourist attractions, formal events, or during local holidays). Females are also advised to avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxi and limiting conversation to only providing relevant information. Public display of affection should be avoided and is considered a violation of local law.

Drug-related Crimes

The UAE continues to advance and promote its national drug strategy by intensifying security at airports, land routes, seaports, border crossings, and coastline patrols. The UAE continues educational campaigns, harsh judicial penalties, and rehabilitation to reduce the demand for illegal drugs. The UAE acts swiftly to punish violators in drug-related offenses. Drug trafficking groups continue using the UAE as a collection and distribution point, as opposed to a transit point, and they are utilizing more female smugglers from European, Asian, and African nationalities in an attempt to diversify their methods of operation.

The possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs can result in long jail sentences, heavy fines, and even the death penalty if convicted for drug trafficking.

Police Response

U.S. citizens are subject to this country’s laws and regulations, which can differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to individuals under U.S. law. Violating the law in any Emirate can result in arrest, prison, fines, and deportation. Persons violating the religious proselytizing law, even unknowingly, may be imprisoned or deported. Consuming, possessing, or transporting alcohol without a Ministry of Interior alcohol permit is illegal. Several arrests in 2015 included an additional charge of consuming alcohol without the requisite permit. In each instance, although initial charges were later dropped, the charge of consuming alcohol without a permit remained with lengthy prison sentences being levied upon the accused. There are also laws against taking photos in areas designated “No Photography Zones:” the Embassy District, government buildings, military bases, and key infrastructure sites. Also, taking photos of women or individuals in public locations may also result in confrontation or reaction by security personnel or police. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.” Weapons, weapon parts, ammunition, body armor, handcuffs, and/or other military/police equipment are illegal. Violations can result in lengthy jail sentences and large fines. Violators’ passports are normally held until judicial cases are resolved. Four of the seven emirates (Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain) share a federal judicial system. However, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras al-Khaimah each have an independent judicial system, legal procedures, and penalties independent from the other Emirates.

Investigative resources, including sophisticated equipment, are available to assist police investigators. The police use biometrics (fingerprints, iris scan technology) and have created a national registry for expatriates living and working in the UAE. Local police will conduct name and record checks if the individual being investigated is present at the police station and has fingerprints taken. Police will not provide data with only name and date of birth.

If approached by a police officer, be prepared to show your identification that permits your presence in the country (passport or Emirates ID).

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

U.S. nationals detained or arrested should request that the authorities contact the Embassy consular section. The Abu Dhabi American Citizen Services phone number is +971 2 414 2200.

Crime Victim Assistance

The emergency telephone number for police, fire, and medical service is 999. Emergency operators/dispatchers speak a variety of languages, including English. When calling for emergency assistance, the caller should provide a detailed description of the location and type of emergency. Most streets in Abu Dhabi are identified by name and/or number; however, many have been re-named/re-numbered and may be known by several names. The vast majority of residential properties until recently have not been numbered. Identifying landmarks or businesses at the scene of an incident is essential in assisting emergency personnel.

During life threatening emergencies, it is prudent to remember that police and emergency services may have lengthy response times. Non-routine decisions will be handled by a UAE national police supervisor, generally the ranks of lieutenant and above. Police officers below the rank of lieutenant are expatriates and are often reluctant to make independent decisions. English fluency is rare for expatriate police officers, and English speaking officers are generally assigned to investigative units. Non-Arabic speaking U.S. nationals should request an English speaking officer when contacting the police department. English-speaking officers may not be readily available during the weekend (Friday, Saturday).

Medical Emergencies

The emergency telephone number for medical services is 999.

Due to the lack of street addresses, emergency callers should provide directions to their residences based on prominent landmarks and must be prepared to meet the ambulance upon arrival. It is recommended that the caller verify and ensure the emergency operator understands the directions provided. Directions should be prepared and maintained on hand. It is important to know the quickest and shortest route to the main emergency facilities throughout the city. It is strongly advised that all U.S. nationals identify and select a primary care physician and a pediatrician prior to arrival in country or as soon as possible upon arrival.

Ambulances are staffed by trained paramedics and equipped with life-saving equipment. However, ambulances do not always respond quickly, and transportation by private vehicle is recommended when it can be done in a safe, secure manner. If an ambulance is required, call 999 and emergency personnel will transport you to the closer of the two hospitals listed below.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For non-life threatening emergencies or routine consultations, there are several private medical centers and medical providers available. A list of medical resources can be found on the Embassy’s website.

The Cleveland Clinic emergency room can handle life threatening emergencies and minor trauma. For major trauma or serious bleeding, the emergency rooms at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) and Mafraq Hospital are recommended. 

Cleveland Clinic

Website: https://www.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae/en/pages/default.aspx

Address:

Tel:

 

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City

Website: https://www.seha.ae/SKMC/English/Pages/default.aspx

Address: Al Karama Street,Tibbiyya

Tel:

 

Al Mafraq Hospital

Website: https://www.seha.ae/mafraq/English/Pages/default.aspx

Address: Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Road, (E11)

Tel:

For OB/GYN emergencies, patients may contact their personal OB/GYN or go to the Corniche Hospital (+971 2 672 4900) located behind the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel on Corniche Road.

Travel outside Abu Dhabi puts the onus on the traveler to identify medical care and emergency facilities at their destination. 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for the UAE.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Abu Dhabi Country Council currently meets quarterly and has approximately 40 members.  Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.  For more information, please contact the Regional Security Office at +971 2 414 2262.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4

Working Hours: 0830-1700 Sun-Thur (closed on U.S. and UAE national holidays)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: +971 2 414 2200
Emergency after-hours telephone: +971 2 414 2500
RSO Abu Dhabi: +971 2 414 2262
Website: https://abudhabi.usembassy.gov

Nearby Posts

Consulate Dubai: https://dubai.usconsulate.gov 

Embassy Guidance

As the U.S. Department of State continues to develop information on any potential security threats to U.S. interests overseas, it shares credible threat information through travel warnings and travel alerts, available online at www.travel.state.gov. Travelers can also hear recorded information by calling the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225. The Embassy’s website and www.travel.state.gov contain country-specific consular information, current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Worldwide Caution messages.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows travelers and residents to receive the latest travel updates and security information. The RSO encourages U.S. nationals residing or traveling in the UAE to register with the U.S. Embassy consular section.

Additional Resources

UAE Country Information Sheet