When tackling crime, common police practice is to interview witnesses and suspects. For the Dubai police, however, there is an easier and much more effective way, artificial intelligence.
How do they do this?
Well, this can be best illustrated in a recent takedown of an international crime syndicate last Sunday. When the Dubai police got a tip about a criminal trying to smuggle drugs into the emirate, their investigative unit turned to Oyoon, a network of AI-powered cameras installed all around the city.
Using Oyoon’s high powered round-the-clock surveillance the Dubai police were able to track down a shipment of cocaine worth about $136 million. With about 500 kilograms of cocaine seized, this case would make it the largest drug bust to date.
A statement released by the Dubai police Brigadier Eid Mohammed Thani Hareb, the head of Dubai’s Anti-Narcotics Department credits the investigating unit for verifying the tip and responding in time. The tip had details of the location of the container where the drugs were hidden and also informing them that the syndicate were planning to smuggle the drugs into the city with “the assistance of a Middle Eastern accomplice,”
A video released by the Dubai Police shows how instrumental Oyoon was to the operation. The footage details a lot of the suspects’ cases in the operation codenamed “Scorpion.” The unit saw that the criminal rented a white SUV and also noted when he purchased cutting tools.
The SUV then proceeded to the warehouse when it was dark. Fortunately, the Dubai police were already there to capture the suspect “red-handed”, said deputy director of Dubai’s Anti-Narcotics Department, Colonel Khalid bin Muwaiza.
The video footage released by the Dubai Police shows that the cocaine packets found in both the suspect’s car and the cargo container were marked with scorpion symbols.
However, Oyoon has not only been essential for defending Dubai from dangerous criminals but also from disease, specifically Covid-19. During the height of the pandemic, this network of AI-powered cameras was fitted with thermal imaging technology to pick up a rise in temperature.
It is widely known that one of the key markers of COVID-19 is fever i.e. high body temperatures. Using over 200 thermal scanning devices distributed all around Dubai, officials are able to pick up anyone showing this symptom. Coupled with powerful facial recognition software, the system will be able to identify the person/s showing symptoms and alert the relevant authorities.
Speaking to the press during a remote meeting Brig Khalid Al Razooqi said:
“Dubai Police is one of the few government agencies in the world to use AI extensively, which is something we continue to do now during the coronavirus outbreak. The cameras of the force’s AI-based Oyoon programme are now sensing people’s temperature.”
Oyoon’s cameras are also used to ensure that people maintain a safe distance when in public areas. They are able to gauge the distance between people in malls, streets etc.
“When people come closer to one another, the system will generate an alarm,” he said.
Oyoon’s system could be the start of a revolution in the application of technology in the fight against organized crime. Care must however be taken to ensure that there are boundaries to the application of these technologies.
There is always the danger of governments overextending their powers using this technology resulting in massive abuse of human rights. China’s face recognition software is a good example. Perhaps, even then, technology and innovation will again be able to get us back on the right path.