Crime hunters — patriots or nosey

Crime hunters — patriots or nosey

TODAY I’ll broach a subject that has sparked a flurry of reactions — both for and against — following a citizen’s spontaneous action to do his bit in keeping the society on the straight and narrow. All the citizen did was to contribute in his own way to help clamp down on violators, especially traffic violators. The story of the Saudi citizen, Hamed Dakheel, was published earlier in the media and it triggered a hailstorm of praise and criticism alike.

Dakheel, who was fed up with the chaotic conditions in our roads, took matters in his own hands to bring some order by becoming a ‘street fighter’ of a benign kind. Dakheel vowed to play to the full the role of a good citizen and assist the traffic department in detecting traffic violations using an Interior Ministry phone application that was created to alert authorities on violations and enables them to take action. Once people found out that Dakheel had taken this high road, his story went viral on social media and it was the hottest topic of discussion in most gatherings because of his initiative to bring some system to the road by cleaning up violators.

Though his action was the moot point, opinion on this man’s action, however, differed diametrically. Some people thought that he was nosey and not human for actually harming other people financially after they were fined for violations that he had relayed to the traffic department, while others saw it as a courageous and patriotic act, and called on more citizens to play an active role in citizen policing.

Dakheel, when asked by media on what prompted this action against traffic violators, said that he was fed up with people not respecting rules, and after giving their slipshod ways a miss over the years he decided to act. He felt the need to assist the traffic department. He also said that though his action drew instant ire of the people he was not afraid to face them or put them down. He defended his actions by saying that he was not targeting people by going out on the road and specifically searching for violators, but was spreading awareness and protecting society from road violators by snapping and sending the violations through the app, when he happened to see them.

The courage and the sense of duty of the man has to be lauded, for Dakheel has weathered a storm of adverse comments and has refused to back down. He even revealed, despite the daily threats on social media, he would still take on the violators and will not shy away from carrying out his duty toward society by being a concerned citizen who polices and reports violators to authority.

I am a bit surprised on why people are against this man’s initiative and railing against him. Some people accused him of overstepping his bounds by taking on the role of government, while also querying, ‘what right he had to act this way?’ Others petitioned his human side by stressing on the pain and suffering people would go through if penalized because of him, while asking him to fear Allah. Some simply painted him as the devil, who loves to feed on other people’s mistakes and causing them pain. While a few simply asked him to get a real job or get a life.

I may excuse those who oppose him if they had never heard of the term ‘citizen policing.’ But to sympathize with violators is something that I cannot digest or understand. I have zero tolerance toward road violators who intentionally violate and think that it is a sport. It is thanks to these types of callous drivers that our roads are the most dangerous in the world and I do not think that there is any man who has driven on our streets without a near death experience to tell because of these road violators. If the act of this man is going to strike fear in the hearts of the law-breakers, then by all means I welcome having 600 people like him on our roads.

Violators only obey the law when they know or see the Saher cameras around or when there is a police unit present. Other than that, it is zero respect to any road law or to any other person who is brave enough to take to the road despite the presence of many violators, intentional and non-intentional, on the busy Kingdom streets.

On the same day when I wrote this article, I saw a disaster being averted at the Prince Miteb Street on my way to work. Two youth, in an SUV, ran a red light in early morning hours and almost hit a car, which had been given the green light, coming from the opposite direction. The impunity of the SUV driver, in front of a lot of people, could be only explained by the traffic police car’s absence, of course. The man managed to stop just in time before he collided with the violator’s car.

But what made all see red was the reaction of the youths in the SUV, who just laughed and roared away. If there were people like Dakheel at that intersection, then these violators would be enjoying a beautiful 24 hours in detention in addition to the heavy fine. Then I would like to see if they would still be laughing.

Throughout my years in media, I have come across hundreds of articles of crimes that were discovered or solved following tips from people. How many suspicious activities have been reported to police by normal people leading to discoveries of drugs, liquor or other illegal activities. The simplest information that is given to police can prove helpful in solving a major crime.

In the case of Dakheel, he did not impinge on the rights of the people himself, because he is not authorized to do so. But whatever alerts and violations he sent to the authorities are being reviewed and examined and only the traffic department will deal with the violators accordingly.

People should accept the concept of citizen policing and carry out their duty toward their society by reporting and directing the attention of authorities to violators, through the tools specified by the responsible authorities. We are all partners and need to work hand in hand with the government in keeping our society safe. We should remember that if someone saw a criminal enter his neighbor’s house, he should not remain silent in the belief ‘at least my house is safe’, because today if it is the neighbor’s house then tomorrow it could be yours.

— The writer can be reached at Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng