While the crime rate in Qatar remains relatively low compared to other growing world cities, incidents do still occur.
One expat family whose house was burgled earlier this week while they slept upstairs, has shared its experience with Doha News to warn residents not to be too complacent with security measures.
British resident Steve has lived in the same standalone villa in Ain Khalid for nine years, and has never previously had any safety issues.
However, on Monday night, his home was broken into while he, his wife Maria, 12 year-old son and nine year-old daughter were asleep.
The thieves forced open a downstairs window, and stole several expensive pieces of technology, including an iPad, laptop, cameras, Sony PlayStation and a number of PlayStation games, which they had removed from their cases.
According to Steve, the robbers placed the stolen goods into his daughter’s school backpack before they made their exit over the back wall of the house.
The family only became aware of the situation in the morning, when they awoke and went downstairs, he said.
Police are currently investigating the incident, which is believed to be a crime of opportunity and is unlikely to have been done by professional thieves, as footprints and fingerprints were left around the crime scene.
While not wishing to be alarmist, Steve, a 45 year-old construction consultant, told Doha News that he wanted to remind residents to take basic safety precautions with their homes:
“We knew the lock on our window was faulty. We tried to fix it with a metal plate, but if you were to push the window hard, the plate would fall out. And that’s what seems to have happened here,” he said.
“We were lucky. We weren’t disturbed and so didn’t try to confront the burglar. We are shocked and the children are particularly upset that their things have been taken, but physically we are all fine, thankfully.
“But this was an awakening for us. We have been in this house for nine years and nothing has happened. We were maybe a bit complacent,” he added.
While not wanting to unnecessarily worry people, Steve said he wanted his family’s experience to remind people to take basic precautions.
“It’s true there is very little crime here, but there is still crime. These things can happen. It’s easy to get complacent. No matter how safe you feel, you still need to be aware and vigilant. You can’t take security for granted.
Qatar is still an exceptionally safe place, but you need to take common sense precautions, as you would do if you lived in any other city.”
Rising crime rate
A few years ago, Qatar released government figures that showed the crime rate jumped from 320 crimes per 100,000 people in 2001 to 2,355 crimes in 2010.
The 2011 Sustainable Development Indicators report attributed the rising crime rate to the “arrival of numerous number of people from all over the world, in addition to the development occurred to the techniques followed by criminals, which are extrinsic crimes and deeds, that were not common or known previously by the Qatari society.”
More recently, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security released a Crime and Safety Report last February detailing robbery figures in Qatar.
It noted that the country’s burglary rate is 25 per 100,000 inhabitants – well below the global average of 100 per 100,000 people. However, the report advised that the rate of break-ins is slowly increasing:
“The Embassy’s Regional Security Office has assessed prospects for potential crime increases in Qatar over the next 36 months and believes that low level illegal activity will likely continue to increase over time, both in frequency and level of sophistication.”
Reported burglaries in Qatar are still relatively rare compared to other countries, where such incidents do not make the news.
Periodic spates of car break-ins do take place.
In March last year, there were several reports of cars being broken into across Doha, while a number of residents complained about stolen handbags after leaving their cars unlocked while they collected their children from nurseries across town.
Additionally, in October 2013, a longterm British resident shared her story of having her purse and several thousands of riyals stolen from her locked car in her residential car park in Al Sadd.
In a bid to encourage others to take safety precautions, the woman said: “The lessons here are ones that I have had to learn the hard way – take care of your belongings, don’t think your car is safe or secure anywhere.”