Surveying security

A number of reports have suggested that security is being cranked up

Amin: property owners have become complacent about security.
Amin: property owners have become complacent about security.
Emrill customer services director Alan MacMillan.
Emrill customer services director Alan MacMillan.

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A number of reports have suggested that security is being cranked up in Dubai. In July, the police announced that they would boost surveillance in the emirate by installing security cameras “everywhere”.

Dubai is also pushing crime prevention through environmental design in the built environment to influence decisions that precede criminal acts by increasing the level of surveillance, access control and territorial reinforcement. But are these measures really necessary, or is the city in danger of turning into a ‘Big Brother’ society?

The recent growth in the security industry has been driven by a number of factors, including the increasing number of major events being held in the UAE, such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as concerts and festivals. Furthermore, the growth in the population has led to the need for tighter defense measures, according to Emrill customer services director Alan MacMillan.

“As a country grows, expands and matures, so must the measures to protect its assets. This is not only done through physical security measures, but through other protective measures such as governance, change in laws and the introduction of new laws,” he said.

Political, economic and social tensions in the Middle East have also pushed governments and private companies to take the necessary steps towards creating a safer environment.

“It has become imperative to invest in enhancing security measures to maintain a healthy business ambiance and secure living environment, as well as to protect nations from internal and external threats,” explained World Security CEO Mahmood Amin.

Peace of mind
Unsurprisingly, crimes of theft occur more and more in the summer months, particularly during Ramadan, when many residents go on vacation. Thus the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Dubai Police has been taking action to improve this situation.

“The plan aims at combating crime and promoting safety and security by increased security patrols in all areas of Dubai, particularly residential, public places, markets and commercial centres,” CID director Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri told Gulf Today.

Private companies such as Landmark Properties, G4S and Emrill Services are also checking on homes that have been vacated temporarily.

“We are conducting patrols and checks of residences for some of our customers. We recommend that people do enlist a service provider or friends and family to check their homes regularly while they are away,” said G4S COO Dave Zack.

But increased safety doesn’t just come down to regular spot checks; service providers are also insisting that residents themselves have to be on their guard.

“Approximately 30% of all burglaries start with an unsecured window as an entry point,” said MacMillan. “Residents should ask their neighbours to carry out day-to-day tasks such as going into their property frequently to make it appear that the place is still occupied and being used.”

Amin also said that property owners have become complacent about home security because of the “low crime rate” in the region.

“We all have high-value items, and some properties require alarm systems. Residents need to us common sense to protect their assets. Leaving your car unlocked with your laptop, iPod and designer sunglasses on the passenger seat is not a wise move in any country,” he said.

Although there is still a demand for human interaction, security systems have gradually become more automated due to the advent of new technologies.

There has been rapid growth in IP (Internet Protocol) video surveillance, which is expected to dominate the video surveillance market in the near future, with network cameras and video servers being the major trends. Unlike CCTV technology, IP cameras can send and receive data via a computer network and the internet.

“Remote video monitoring was unheard of until recently, and can now be done cost-effectively through SIM cards and GPRS technology. The trend is a more effective use of technology with less emphasis on personnel. Everyone wants to ensure cost-effective solutions,” said Zack.

Another growing trend in the GCC, is the use of biometric security systems, which are used to identity of individuals in the workplace and at government sites, including airports.

“This is the most secure and convenient authentication tool available, as it represents a person’s unique biological identity, which cannot be stolen,” added Amin.

“Slight hyperbole”
Security is improving in the region, but it may not necessarily becoming more stringent. And the suggestion that surveillance cameras will be installed “everywhere” is a bit of an exaggeration, according to experts.

“I think perhaps the term ‘everywhere’ is a slight hyperbole, as Dubai does have privacy laws in place which do not permit surveillance systems to be installed in certain areas and premises,” said MacMillan, adding that the application of surveillance technologies is not geared purely towards that of security,” said MacMillan.

“Having well-deployed surveillance systems can assist both the police and Roads and Transportation Authority in future planning of roads and infrastructure to reduce congestion, and can assist the authorities prior to, and during, any large-scale events that Dubai hosts regularly.”

Zack seconded this argument and added: “I think increased security is not a Middle East phenomenon, with heightened awareness and action being taken worldwide. Governments are responding to their responsibilities to do their best to keep citizens safe.”

What’s happening in Qatar?
The Qatar 2010 Crime and Security Report, compiled by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, showed that crime within the Gulf state has increased significantly since 2005. Qatar’s Ministry of Interior recorded a total of 923 criminal cases in 2005 and 3976 cases during 2006 — an increase of 330%, the report stated.

Between 2005 and 2006, there was a 237% increase in the number of suspects arrested (from 1096 to 3702). And in 2008, 8527 arrests were made for residency-permit violations.

The government of Qatar is monitoring crime trends carefully, and is making an effort to enforce stringent security measures.

“During the weekends and after hours, some parts of Doha are off-limits to expatriate families, unaccompanied females and minor-aged children due to overcrowding and large numbers of foreign male labourers,” explained Emrill customer services director Alan MacMillan.

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