Police have begun enforcing a law requiring residents to gain official permission to get their keys copied.

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Police have begun enforcing a law requiring residents to gain official permission to get their keys copied.

Police have begun enforcing a law requiring residents to gain official permission to get their keys copied. The law, which has been on the books for 10 years but has not been routinely applied, will protect residents by keeping records of all copied keys, officials say. But shops which offer key- copying services say the policy shift has turned customers away and had a devastating effect on business.

“The real impact is more psychological. People who come for legitimate business become very concerned about this new rule and very concerned that they need a police statement,” said the manager of one shop near Defence Road, who asked to remain anonymous. “It turns them off. Some of them get scared, others get annoyed because they think it’s a very legitimate thing for their own houses.” Under a previous system, police asked key-cutting shops to record the details of each customer and to photocopy their identity documents.

Now customers must provide proof of ownership to the police and gain a letter of “no objection” before copying keys. “If [a customer] wants to copy a car key, he has to present the car registration,” said Col Hammad al Hammadi, based at Khalidiya police station. “In the case of a house key, he has to show proof of ownership or rent. In the case of a key to a company’s safe, the person should present a letter from the company.”

Police suspended the requirement for a “no objection” letter several years ago when the office which handled the procedures moved out of the capital. The law was re-implemented this year when local police stations were handed responsibility. But according to Abdul Muthalib, who manages a small key-cutting shop in the basement of Marina Mall, the law frustrates his customers and robs him of business.

Mr Muthalib, whose shop also repairs watches and offers photocopying services, said he had lost at least 30 per cent of his revenue since “no objection” letters became mandatory. And despite Col Hammadi’s assertion that getting police approval “takes five minutes”, Mr Muthalib said the majority of customers abandon the effort immediately upon hearing about the law. “Now, these customers, when you say that you need a letter from the police, they shout at me and they leave,” he said.

“After that, they don’t come to our shop. Daily, there are maybe 10 or 15 customers shouting at me. Now, maybe in one month, there are about 20 keys. Before, there were about 1,500 keys,” said Mr Muthalib, whose store charges Dh10 (US$2.70) to copy a key. “Then I lose other business also. Sometimes, people come in here and they wait for the key, they see something else, and they buy it.” Mr Muthalib added that the back-to-school period is the best time for key cutters, when parents buy several copies of their children’s locker keys. This time of year normally brought in four to five hundred keys each day, he said.

“I’ve lost too much, you know. Our rent always increases. Everything is increasing now. So it’s affecting our business too much. “Our main business is key-cutting and watch repair. Now it’s only watch repair,” he said. To add to his problems, Mr Muthalib said that some rivals were ignoring the rules. “Sometimes people say that, in other places, ‘I can get my key done without permission’,” he said. “I don’t know where they find these shops.”

One shop in Khalidiya cut a key without asking for a permit. Instead, the store manager logged names, phone numbers and signatures after taking a photocopy of customers’ identity cards. “Some key owners know the residents of their area and develop a trust relationship with them, therefore they overcome the procedures,” said Col Hammadi. “We are aware that some violations take place, but with limits. We trust people to follow our instructions. Generally, people abide by the law in the UAE, and specifically in Abu Dhabi.”

He added that he was working with key cutters to find compromises to the procedures. “I sat with a key copier the other day and we reached a solution to ease the procedure by allowing people to register for the key copies at the shops. I will raise this suggestion to officials for approval,” he said. “The goal of Abu Dhabi Police is to make things easier for the public. Therefore we are talking to key copiers and listening to their suggestions.”

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@Email:[email protected] * With reporting by Haneen Dajani, Essam al Ghalib and Emile Hokayem


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