Towards a safer neighbourhood

BY: Tanya Fong

SINGAPORE – A greater police presence and more “eyes” on the ground – in the form of CCTV cameras – to deter crime are what residents can look forward to in the coming years. And more than just increasing the number of police officers on patrol, the quality of engagement with the community will also be improved.

As part of enhancements to the Republic’s community policing model, more police officers will be deployed at the Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs) islandwide. Apart from a dedicated crime-fighting team, each NPC will also have a team of specially selected and trained officers to serve as liaison officers to build rapport with the community and advise residents. The officers will also be assigned to specific beats such as enforcement, patrols and responding to incidents.

And following the success of a six-month pilot – under which CCTV cameras were installed at Geylang – more CCTV cameras will be installed at key entry and exit points of all multi-storey car parks and HDB blocks, such as lifts or lift landings.

The police’s plans are expected to be finalised in the first quarter of next year and will be rolled out soon after. The implementation is expected to take between three and five years.

Yesterday, at the Community Policing Strategies Seminar, Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran gave details of these initiatives.

Mr Iswaran noted that the police have responded to challenges such as Singapore’s changing demographic profiles – including a higher proportion of non-residents to residents and an ageing population – as well as greater expectations due to higher education levels and improved standard of living.

The police had, in 2004, first installed CCTV cameras in high crime incidence areas such as Boat Quay, Geylang and Little India.

Sharing the success of the police’s pilot on “hot spot policing” in Geylang, Mr Iswaran said the number of snatch theft cases in the area fell by 50 per cent while molestation cases fell by 41 per cent since the project began.

Mr Iswaran noted under the new initiatives, police officers “will get to know the precincts well, become familiar faces to residents and businesses in the area, thereby building trust, and deep and lasting ties”.

“The objective is to ensure that crime-fighting is more responsive and better tailored to local needs,” said Mr Iswaran. “The NPCs will have the resources to gather local intelligence, mount pro-active anti-crime operations and conduct enforcement raids and checks. NPCs will also be better able to fight crimes occurring in the community, such as harassment by unlicensed moneylenders.”

Currently, there are 33 NPCs across the island. Each NPC has about 90 police officers, including police national servicemen. Next year, two more NPCs – at Punggol and Woodlands West – will be opened.

Mr Iswaran also noted that the NPC system has been effective at reducing crime to 650 crimes per 100,000 of population last year from 974 per 100,000 in 1997. Four in 10 arrests in recent years were also made with direct or indirect help from the public.

Police presence in housing estates became a talking point earlier this year after a spate of gang-related activities. During a Parliament session last year, then-Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had cited the challenges of recruiting police officers.

As of last year, there were 235 police officers per 100,000 people. In 2009, that ratio was 247 per 100,000 people.

On how the police will be able to deploy more officers in the years ahead, a police spokesperson said that the “manpower and resource requirements are not finalised”.

The spokesperson added: “We will be conducting focus group discussions with our community stakeholders in the coming months to hear their views and ideas, before finalising the plans and resource requirements to implement these initiatives.”

– Today Online –