Punish those who violate regulations!


I have wanted to revisit the subject of people’s errant behavior for some time now. Such behavior is unacceptable, especially when it comes to public property and when it is apparent that some people despite the existence of strict penal measures for violations will not change or mend their ways for the better, but only become more ardent in cocking a snook at authorities and regulations, just because they are there.

In addition such people derive some unknown pleasure from breaking the law, as if the destructive feat somehow bolsters their image as a “daredevil”, who does not care a whit for rules, authorities and public property.

This violation of public property was especially apparent after the Jeddah Waterfront, JW, was opened. It took the authorities many years to construct a waterfront that makes the people of Jeddah proud while providing a perfect location for families and children to spend quality time together. The authorities have totally transformed the location with facilities and playgrounds and even a safe swimming area for visitors.

On the very first day, video clips abounded showing some people involved in destructive acts. Some were seen destroying property and one of them was pictured writing graffiti and driving over the sidewalk. Others were seen trashing the area with garbage, despite the availability of garbage containers everywhere.

Authorities were taken by surprise at the suddenness and savagery of these acts by the very people JW was built for. They never expected such behavior on the very first day. The irony is that I was surprised that the authorities were taken by surprise, for I have long asserted that the authorities must deal with such negative behavior with an iron fist. This sort of behavior is not limited to the JW, but can be seen everywhere and the question that immediately arises is: Why do some people love to violate regulations on the road, at work and in public places? Why do people engage in such behavior?

Only a psychiatrist would have a ready answer to this question, but one common thread that links these violators, which even I as a layman can understand, is their innate desire to be noticed. It seems as if they are prepared to pay any price in order to get some attention.

A video clip, widely circulated on social media, showed a father littering while he was with his family at the JW. The clip showed an angry municipal worker arguing with the father and admonishing him for being careless and setting a poor example. A police officer, who was passing by, was also seen arguing with the man. The corrective measures that followed were not the issue, but what was painful was that this man had come to the JW with his daughters and was committing these violations in front of them. What kind of example was this father setting for his children?

When I was at the JW last week, I witnessed another violation. A group of grown men, swimming in the designated area, were after some time seen sitting on the rock barrier that separates the swimming area from the sea. There are two large warning signs placed on the rock barrier to warn swimmers to stay away and not to swim in the sea. The very fact that these men went to the top of the rock barrier was a sure sign that they were challenging the regulations.

A lifeguard, over a microphone, asked them to return to the safe area but they ignored him. Finally, a police officer shouting over the microphone, for everyone to hear, ordered the men to return. Moreover, in order to embarrass them in front of those at the beach, he asked them to in future read the signs before doing anything stupid. Shamed, they returned to the swimming area but only after the officer had issued an ultimatum to either respect the regulations or leave the area.

We see the same things repeatedly on the roads, with some drivers committing traffic violations. These people know full well what they are doing but seem to get a thrill by defying the system. What motivates a driver to drive on the emergency lane at high speed on a crowded road or on the opposite side of the road, or to weave through lanes on main thoroughfares or even to run red lights? When police catch such drivers, they are usually red-faced with no explanation for their errant behavior.

The brazen wish to challenge the rules despite knowing that when they are caught they will be penalized overrides caution in such people. It is hard to give any other explanation for a clip making the rounds on social media. In the clip, a driver in Madinah was seen driving in the middle of the city with the number on his license plates covered in duct tape. He drove in front of a policeman who pulled him over to the side of the road and levied a heavy fine and made him uncover his license plates. The driver had no explanation for his behavior, and neither do I, as it seems he willfully sought to violate regulations.

Violators are programed to violate and no awareness campaign on earth will discipline them. I have called many times for skipping the step of “increasing awareness” about obvious issues and going ahead with implementing heavy fines or even resorting to incarceration for breaking traffic rules on the road and for errant social behavior.

I am happy to see violators fined at JW for bad social behavior. Moreover, citizens and residents should support the authorities by either calling out violators or reporting them. This reflects positively on the JW as we now see less violations being committed. Violators are a cancer in every society and they should be dealt with strictly.

Law-abiding citizens and expatriates are demotivated when they see violators behaving negatively and going unpunished. Some might even join them. Only when authorities do their job, make their presence felt and fine those that cross the red line, will we see a society with no violations.

The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng