Many years ago, when I was working on a special report on the Dubai Police Command and Control Centre, the official who was showing me around stopped at a computer screen that had a live feed from the old Deira Gold Souq. “You want to know how much that ring costs?” he asked me, as he zoomed in on one of the showroom’s window displays.
I looked at the screen closely, but the price of the ring was not relevant. Neither was the piece of jewellery itself. The case in point was the extent to which Dubai Police was equipped to keep tabs on the minutest of things in the busiest of areas, even from another location.
Cut to 2022, and the technologies that Dubai Police employs have advanced manifold. Of course, it is too vast a subject to cover in this ambit, but I must make mention of an innovative system developed by the General Department of Artificial Intelligence (AI), thanks to which an increasing number of people, both residents and tourists, are finding things that they have lost in record time. The system is integrated with government, semi-government and private organisations across Dubai to ensure items lost or found are appropriately registered, and lost items are quickly returned to owners inside or outside the UAE.
Heartwarming facts and figures
Just last week, Dubai Police announced that it had returned over 80,000 lost items to their rightful owners, the gesture generating untold joy and relief along with a savings of Dh18 million; earlier, Emirates airline let on that it recovered more than 15,000 lost items for its passengers in one year, of which 2,076 items were handed over within an hour, and 2,938 items within six hours; and of course Dubai Roads Transport Authority (RTA), which keeps outdoing itself, has to its credit returned forgotten belongings in 99.9 per cent of 31,073 lost item cases in taxis alone in a single year.
While lost-and-found services are not unique to Dubai, the fact that the system works with a high rate of success is what sets it apart. The swiftness with which the different entities act to register lost or found items, establish matches and reach the right items to the right people is remarkable.
As it turns out, the most commonly lost items are wallets, bags, cash, credit cards, passports, documents, mobile phones, laptops, keys and glasses. There are unlikely instances of missing pets too. And oftentimes, the owners get back their lost possessions even before they realise they have gone missing.
True, the systems are hi-tech and they work. But there’s another key factor to the success of Dubai’s lost-and-found stories too: The honesty and pro-activeness of the common man. Time and again, it is the ordinary people who call upon their extraordinary selves to rise to the occasion and play the part: Whether it’s a high school student handing over a lost wallet to the police at a shopping centre in Qusais; a taxi driver returning 2.5kg of gold left behind by a passenger he picked up from Dubai International airport; or a passerby contacting the authorities after he stumbled upon a wad of notes adding up to Dh350,000 in Naif. These men and women often make it to the headlines as the authorities make it a point to honour them for their noble acts.
There are many unsung heroes too. Over the weekend, I chanced upon a post in a community group on Facebook that talked about a Swiss knife that had been found in the desert. The concerned lady, who had written the post, was keen that its owner be traced as it looked like a precious gift with some “really nice words” and a name inscribed on it. Promptly, another member of the group suggested that she report it to the police and even posted a web link for her benefit.
It’s heartening how such seemingly small gestures can make a world of difference. Random acts of kindness that can simply bowl you over, even restore your faith in humanity.
It makes me wonder what is it about Dubai? Well, all I can say is that systems are in place. And while they are, they also empower us to do our bit. At the end of the day, it’s as much about upholding our values as it is about protecting our valuables.