CRIME IN SINGAPORE: MURDERS, SCAMS, TEENAGE GANGS AND THE POLICE RESPONSE

CRIME IN SINGAPORE

Singapore has a relatively low crime rate (partly because the punishments are so harsh) and Singaporeans are generally a very law-abiding people. Violent crime almost never occurs and petty crime is rare but occurs from time to time. Singapore and Los Angeles have about the same population. In 1993, Los Angeles recorded 1,100 murders, 1,855 rapes and 39,227 robberies. In comparison, Singapore had only 58 murders, 80 rapes and 1,008 robberies. Guns were only used in three of the robberies. In London there is one crime for every 27 people, in Hong Kong one crime every 209 people, in Tokyo one crime every 394 people, in Singapore one crime for every 585 people.

In the 1960s, the crime rate was very high in Singapore. One reason why penalties are so severe today is that the government of Lee Kuan Yew in the 1960s wanted to reign in the crime problem quickly. Shootings are rare as Singapore has strict gun control laws. Even armed robbery carries the death penalty. In March 1999, for the first time in a decade, Singapore announced a rise in the crime rate.

Singapore remains a generally safe city and people can still walk the streets without fear of being robbed or attacked. Rapid population increases have strained police resources. Some worry that the introduction of casinos in 2010 will attract undesirables and bring problems. “Singapore is fast becoming known as a sin city,” said a school teacher, who fears casinos and vice would one day lead to its downfall. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, March 20, 2010]

Drug abuse is limited because of aggressive law enforcement efforts; as a transportation and financial services hub, Singapore is vulnerable, despite strict laws and enforcement, as a venue for money laundering. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

"Singapore is one of the safest places in the world,'' Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said in July 2004. The tiny city-state "regularly ranked highly in international surveys such as those by the Political Economic Risk Consultancy, which rated Singapore as the top city in the world for personal safety and security in 2003,'' Wong said.

See Prostitution, Drugs

Metal Theft in Singapore

In 2007, Reuters reported: It is considered one of Asia's safest cities, but authorities in Singapore have a theft problem -- spurred by a surge in metals prices. Thefts of drain covers, prayer urns, copper cables and other metal items doubled in Singapore last year, police said today. While the overall crime rate in Singapore dropped 10 percent in 2006, metal-related thefts jumped, with 1092 cases in 2006 compared with 526 cases in the previous year. [Source: Reuters, January 25, 2007]

"Most of the stolen metal items are sold to Karung Guni men," said Tan Puay Kern, the senior assistant commissioner of police, referring to Singapore's rag-and-bone men. He added that thieves had made off with lightning conductors, street signs, and the housings for cable-television equipment. The price of metals such as copper has doubled in the last two years, amid speculative buying by investors who bet on tight supply and rising demand as emerging market economies increase spending on infrastructure. [Ibid]

Safe Singapore Grapples with Rising Crime

Singapore's reputation as one of the world's safest cities took a hit in 2002 with a large jump in crimes such as robbery, murder and rape, government statistics showed. Reuters reported: “Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said the total number of "seizable offences" -- offences for which a suspect can be arrested without a warrant -- had risen by 10 percent to 33,600 in the wealthy but tightly controlled city state. The figures may be a symptom of the economic malaise in Singapore, which is sputtering out of its worst recession since 1964 but is burdened by rising unemployment. The government has tightened security since uncovering a plot by Islamic militants in December 2001 to bomb the US embassy and other targets, but officials say the island state of four million people remains vulnerable to an attack. [Source: Reuters, January 17, 2003]

“The government said "seizable offences" included robbery, murder and rape, but it offered no separate breakdown. Wong said youth crime had risen, with the number of arrests jumping by 49 percent to about 4000 last year, up from 2800 the year before. Arrests for drug offences rose by about two percent, especially cases involving the drugs ketamine and methamphetamine, popularly known as "ice", he added in a speech. Offences involving the "club drug" ecstasy fell to 115 in 2002 from 270 in 1999. "The drug situation remains stable and under control," Wong said. Singapore's strict penal code includes a mandatory death sentence for anyone over 18 guilty of trafficking more than 15 grams (half an ounce) of heroin, 30 grams of morphine or 500 grams of cannabis.

In July 2004, Associated Press reported: “Singapore saw a rise in rapes and murders in the first half of the year, the latest police figures show, but government officials noted that crime rates overall remained steady and insisted that the city-state is one of the world's safest urban environments. From January through June, the number of rapes rose to 70 from 59 in the same period the year before, a 19 percent increase, and the number of murders rose to 12 from 11, a 9 percent increase, according to the police statistics released this week. Overall, reports of seizable offenses - those for which officers can make an arrest without a warrant - dropped by a single case to 16,545 compared with the same period last year, the summary showed. Cases of motor vehicle theft - mostly motorbikes - also rose 6 percent to 612 during the period, while police reports of robbery fell 24 percent to 420, and cases of housebreaking dropped by 19 percent to 513, the police statement said. Housebreaking refers to illegal entry into a dwelling, while robbery is theft from a public place. [Source: AP, July 27, 2004]

By 2006, the crime rare was falling. According to police statistics, crime declines 10 percent, with cases falling from 37,093 (in 2005) to 33,393. The crimes covered included rioting, housebreaking, robbery, cheating, car theft, and even mobile phone crimes. Youth offences, which accounted for one-fifth of the total, dropped by 30 percent.

Foreigners and Crime in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “With Singapore allowing in a million foreigners in the past 10 years, citizens had been expecting crime to spiral in their city. So far, it has not happened. In fact, overall crime fell by 4 percent in 2009, police headquarters announced. However, the huge influx of foreigners, many of them loosely screened, and rising unemployment have combined to create pockets of crime in several parts of the island,” including Geylang. “Offences like prostitution (involving tens of thousands of overseas women), drugs, gambling, loan sharking and peddling contraband cigarettes and pornographic DVDs, became prevalent. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, March 20, 2010 <>]

“Singaporeans are fearful that triad members from China and Vietnam etc will establish operations here where, given their aggressiveness, they will soon dominate the local gangsters. A simple example of negative developments: Some 81 percent of illegal hawkers come from abroad. They made up 650 of the 800 unlicensed hawkers arrested so far this year, a newspaper reported. <>

“But are foreigners responsible for most of the crimes in Singapore? Latest statistics show that their role is rising, but the ratio is lower than their proportion of the population. For example, the number of arrested foreigners (excluding permanent residents) has been increasing for three consecutive years – from 3216 (in 2006) to 3780 (2007) and 3822 (2008). They made up 19 percent of all arrested offenders, an under-representation since foreigners form 24 percent of the population. The most common offences were theft, vice and smuggling, public brawls and drunkenness and molest, with a few murders (mainly due to emotional outbursts) and rapes. In a more serious instance, a group of Vietnamese and Chinese workers fought with wooden poles and kitchen knives in a dormitory in Geylang last month, leaving three men injured.” <>

Triads and Gangs in Singapore

Countries with smallest organized crime problem: 1) Singapore; 2) Portugal; 3) Norway; 4) Austria; 5) Denmark and Finland. [Source: Executive Survey of 60 countries]

"Fifty years ago people joined gangs to earn a living. Today these kids do it for pride and thrill, not because of poverty," an old hawker told The Star. Seah Chiang Nee wrote: Then, a pugnacious Lee Kuan Yew had to deal with some 33,000 triad members who had as much real power as the police. His weapon was a mixture of logic and legislation, which often meant heavy punishment. As a result, their strength has been vastly reduced - until the current resurgence by a growing minority of juvenile delinquents. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, November 13, 2010]

“For an old newshound like me, who had reported Singapore for more than 40 years, it was deja vu but under a different setting. As a boy, I once watched in horror as a few old Gang 369 killers cut off someone's head in a coffee shop. One reason for the triads' decline was a better living standard. Another was the island's small size where wanted criminals had few places to run or hide. Besides, a criminal record could mean one could kiss goodbye to a government job.

Founding of Triads in Singapore

To help them face the dangers, hardships, and loneliness of the sojourner life, most men joined or were forced to join secret societies organized by earlier immigrants from their home districts. The secret societies had their origin in southern China, where, in the late seventeenth century, the Heaven, Earth, and Man (or Triad) Society was formed to oppose the Qing (1644-1911) dynasty. By the nineteenth century, secret societies in China acted as groups that organized urban unskilled labor and used coercion to win control of economic niches, such as unloading ships, transporting cotton, or gambling and prostitution. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The same pattern extended all over Southeast Asia, where immigrants joined secret societies whose membership was restricted to those coming from the same area and speaking the same dialect. Membership gave the immigrants some security, in the form of guaranteed employment and assistance in case of illness, but required loyalty to the leaders and payment of a portion of an already meager wage. Although the societies performed many useful social functions, they were also a major source of crime and violence. *

By 1860 there were at least twelve secret societies in Singapore, representing the various dialect and subdialect groups. Invariably friction arose as each society sought to control a certain area or the right to a certain tax farm. Civil war in China in the 1850s brought a flood of new migrants from China, including many rebels and other violent elements. Serious fighting between the various secret societies broke out in 1854, but it remained a domestic dispute within the Chinese community. Although not directed at the government or the non-Chinese communities, such outbreaks disrupted commerce and created a tense atmosphere, which led to the banning of secret societies in 1889. *

Theft in Singapore

When I visited Singapore in 1988 I chased down a thief. On my second day there I came out of my hotel and saw a boy running down the street with a bag in his hand. I then saw some police chasing after him but they looked like they were running out of steam. The boy was in his late teens and he didn't seem very threatening so I took off after him. After a block or two I caught up to him and tackled him in park. The police soon came along and hand-cuffed the boy and hauled him off, I assume, to a police station. I then went to the telephone office and using USA Direct I called the States and told everybody how proud of myself I was. But later I started thinking. If someone gets a $1000 fine for littering in Singapore...the poor bag thief I tackled was probably doing twenty years without parole because of me.

In the mid-2000s, Singapore experienced a theft problem, spurred by a surge in metals prices. Reuters reported: “Thefts of drain covers, prayer urns, copper cables and other metal items doubled in Singapore last year, the police said. While the overall crime rate in Singapore dropped 10 percent last year, metal-related thefts jumped, with 1,092 cases in 2006 compared with 566 cases in the previous year. "Most of the stolen metal items are sold to Karung Guni men," said Tan Puay Kern, the senior assistant commissioner of police, referring to Singapore's rag-and-bone men. He added that thieves had made off with lightning conductors, street signs, and the housings for cable-television equipment. The price of metals such as copper has doubled in the last two years, amid speculative buying by investors who bet on tight supply and rising demand as emerging market economies increase spending on infrastructure. [Source: Reuters, January 24, 2007]

Scams in Singapore

In 2004, AFP reported: “Greed got the better of 13 Singaporeans and 36 foreigners here who have lost at least US$1.5 million to fraudulent investment phone scams since 2002, the Business Times reported. The victims are usually contacted through unsolicited calls by fraudsters offering them opportunities to buy into the stocks of US-listed companies, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) said. "It boils down to ignorance and greed," CAD director Tan Siong Thye said at a seminar organised by the agency, the island's main white collar crime buster. "Investment frauds succeed because people hear the promise of easy money and they throw caution to the wind. They do not ask themselves questions, let alone do due dilligence on the offer," he said. [Source: Agence France Presse, March 18, 2004]

“CAD received 50 complaints relating to these investment scams from locals and foreign residents who have collectively lost some $1.5 million since 2002. The figures could be higher as not all victims come forward to report their losses. Education could be one way of preventing people from falling for these scams, Tan said. "CAD has no cure for greed because it is inherent in many people. But we do have solutions for ignorance through education," he added. According to a foreign company executive who frequently receives such calls, the tricksters often employ people with British and American accents pretending to be global financial analysts and traders. Envoy exasperated over Singaporeans falling for fraud schemes.” [Ibid]

“Nigeria's envoy in Singapore has expressed frustration over people falling for fraudulent financial schemes originating in his country, the Sunday Times reported. "That's the biggest problem we face, people who simply refuse to believe us when we tell them they're dealing with fraudsters," Nigeria's acting high commissioner Georges Alabi was quoted as saying. "Instead, they called us fools and said that we're blocking them from getting their money," he added. An 80-year-old man, Alabi recalled, was dragged by his family to the Nigerian high commission five times before he finally accepted the truth that he had been the victim of highly publicised fraudulent schemes, many of them originating in Nigeria. "Scams are not peculiar to any country. There are 140 million people in Nigeria but that doesn't mean all of us are dishonest," Alabi said. Dozens of Singaporeans have been duped by a Nigerian syndicate telling them they had won six-figure sums in a Spanish lottery, with some of the victims losing as much as S$70,000 (US$41,176). [Source: Agence France Presse, August 29, 2004]

The number of reported scams increased dramatically during the global financial crisis in 2009, AFP reported: “The phone rings and an unknown voice tells you a loved one has been kidnapped. You can hear screams in the background as the caller gruffly gives you details of how to pay the ransom. But don't rush to get the money together. Police across Asia say this sort of scenario is likely to be a scam -- and that it is happening more often. In recession-hit Singapore, police reported a 15 percent increase in phone-scam cases in 2008 from the year earlier, with S$7.6 million (US$5.1 million) reported lost compared to $4.6 million in 2007. "The reports have increased dramatically," said David Scott Arul, deputy director of operations for the Singapore Police Force. In addition to kidnap hoaxes, up nearly 20-fold from 2007-2008, two other phone scams are of concern to Singapore police. In a lottery ruse, victims are asked to make advance payments before being able to claim a non-existent prize. Another trick sees telephone conmen posing as court or police officials demanding money to close "investigations" involving the victims. "Phone scams are expected to continue in these tough economic times and culprits may come up with new methods," the Singapore police said in an annual crime report that also forecast an increase in theft and cheating cases,"Cheating scams may take different forms but these scams are all designed to cheat victims into parting with their money," the annual crime report said. [Source: Agence France Presse, March 13, 2009]

Increased in White Collar Crime in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Singapore’s pattern of crime has been changing in the past 20 years in tandem with the rise in education, wealth and new technology. But as criminals became worldly-wise, the trend has ostensibly moved from violent offences, which bring less money and stronger punishment, to more profitable white-collar crimes. They include fraud, product piracy, deception, commercial scams, computer offences, and bribery. There are fewer hard drug offenders, secret society members (replaced by teenage gangs) and robbery syndicates which used to operate in large numbers during the less developed era. Today the crooks are more likely to be suit-wearing CEOs and directors, lawyers, bankers or computer experts who dine in five-star hotels and travel first-class. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, January 27, 2007 /*/]

“Recent instances of misuse of funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars by CEOs of charity bodies have dealt corporate image and trust a serious blow. Some mega-frauds include the following: 1) Singapore Airlines supervisor Toe Cheng Kyat embezzled some S$35mil (RM80.5mil) from his company. He was sentenced to 24 years' jail; 2) A bigger cheat, casino high-roller Chia Teck Leng, an executive of Asia Pacific Breweries (Singapore) was found guilty of cheating four banks, siphoning off a staggering A$190mil (RM513mil). His crime spree spread over four years; 3) Next Kwek Chee Tong, 53, former managing director of public-listed Kian Ho Bearings, got nine years' jail for misappropriating more than S$5mil (RM11.5mil) of company money; 4) In 2004 China Aviation Oil (CAO) chief executive Chen Jiulin was sentenced to 51 months' jail in connection with the company’s US$550mil (RM1.9bil) trading scandal; and 5) Earlier, Nick Leeson, a 28-year-old derivatives trader at the Singapore office of Barings PLC, Britain’s oldest merchant bank, lost over US$1.4bil (RM4.9bil) betting on Nikkei futures. It wiped out the bank's equity capital. /*/

“Not all white-collar thieves are managers or the well-heeled; the majority, in fact, are ordinary employees like clerks, IT workers or bank employees who have something in common, the trust of the company. Some time ago, for example, a secretary was convicted of forging more than 70 cheques totalling S$1.5mil (RM3.45mil) over two years and was jailed six-and-a-half years. /*/

“In a 2005 global survey, international PricewaterhouseCoopers looked into the impact of rising commercial crime on international business confidence, and has a section on Singapore. “Fraud (is) a significant and growing threat worldwide,” the survey said in a synopsis. The survey found that 45 percent (2003: 37 percent) of international companies reported having suffered fraud in the last two years. The number of victim companies rose by 22 percent since 2003. Singapore was in better shape, with only 16 percent of companies surveyed reporting having fallen victim – compared with 39 percent region-wide. The republic saw a sharp 50 percent decline in the number of victim firms; two years ago it was 32 percent. /*/

“Although the numbers are down, the survey found the republic recording the biggest frauds (in money terms) than most countries in the world, on a per capita basis. “The average cost of economic crime in Singapore was US$4mil (RM14mil), significantly higher than the global and regional averages of US$1.7mil (RM5.95mil) and US$1.6mil (RM5.6mil),” said the global professional services firm. /*/

Singapore Airlines Battles In-flight Crime and Sexual Offenses Against It Air Hostesses

In 2000, Barry Porte wrote in the South China Morning Post, “The ''Singapore Girl'', with her hour-glass figure and flowing batik sarong, cuts an attractive image 9,000 metres up in the sky far too attractive it would seem for some male passengers. Singapore Airlines reported 22 sexual offences against its air hostesses on board its aircraft last year. ''This is a worrying trend,'' said a senior official from the airline, famous for using pretty, real-life air hostesses in advertisements to lure passengers. [Source: Barry Porte, South China Morning Post, April 29, 2000 *^*]

“The Singapore carrier has also reported a sharp rise in unruly behaviour, especially drunkenness. Crew reported 103 such cases last year, up from 80 the previous year. ''The worrying thing is that the number of incidents just keeps on going up every year,'' Alex de Silva, the airline's vice-president for safety, security and environment told a conference in the republic. There were 50 cases of drunken and disorderly behaviour last year, up from 41 in 1998. Passengers not only laid hands on crew, but attacked fellow travellers. There were 27 such cases last year. *^*

“Singapore courts have regularly jailed, fined or caned passengers for unruly behaviour in the past. However, Mr de Silva called for legal loopholes to be plugged to allow Singapore to deal with such offenders more firmly. Some offenders have escaped without punishment. Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States have introduced laws that allow authorities to use their powers to fight inflight crime whether it occurs on a state-registered or foreign aircraft and regardless of whether the offence was committed in the airspace of the state in which it lands. In Singapore, the maximum sentence for endangering an aircraft's safety is S$5,000 (HK$22,800) and a year in jail. *^*

In 1999, “Sanil Shetty Kumar, 38, was jailed for six months and fined S$1,000 for turning violent on a Singapore Airlines flight and threatening to open an exit door while flying from Los Angeles to Singapore. The carrier said it was working with the International Air Transport Association to find solutions to the increase in air rage and sexual assaults. *^*

Juvenile Crime in Singapore

Singapore reportedly has a juvenile crime problem. Police have been called in to break up fights between gangs of young girls at Boat Quay. In the same area a 16-year-old boy was found dead in a gutter after he was reportedly beaten up seven youths. In 1996, 2,589 juveniles were arrested, double the number in 1995. In 1994, 2,102 were arrested. Youth crime in 2002 was 55 percent higher than in 2001.

The high juvenile crime rate has been blamed on the high number of working mothers and single-parent families. The juvenile crime scene is reportedly dominated by secret societies, similar to those that terrorized Singapore streets in the 1960s. Each gang has 300 to 400 members, which are divided in school-level branches. The members pay fees in return for protection from other gang members. One Singaporean youth told Reuters, "We often hang out near our headquarters because it be will be safer, if there are any fights.” Another said, "We don't get into fights for no apparent reasons. My gang do not fight as often as other gangs do. We only fight if people quarrel with us."

In 2003, AFP reported: “Juvenile crime is on the rise in normally safe Singapore with the number of youths arrested up more than 50 percent last year, a senior government minister said. In an address to mark the launch of an island-wide anti-shoplifting campaign, Senior Minister Of State For Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee said the number of people aged between seven and 15 arrested in 2002 rose 56 percent to 2,200 in 2002. Shoplifting has long been the most common offence among young Singaporeans, he said. "From 1997 to 2002, more youths were arrested for shop theft than any other crime," Ho said. [Source: Agence France Presse, July 16, 2003]

In September 2013, a 17 year-old Singaporean boy has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for raping and sexually molesting 11 girls aged between eight and 12, reports said. AFP reported: “Mohamed Noh Hafiz Osman will also receive 24 strokes of the cane for his crimes, which followed a pattern of him dragging the girls out of housing estate lifts and assaulting them on landings or stairwells, the Straits Times said. Mohamed Noh pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including two of aggravated rape and three of unnatural sex. He raped two of the girls and forced some of the others to perform oral sex on him, the Straits Times said. High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang launched an angry tirade against the teenager, who has yet to finish high school, when he handed down the sentence. "Some of these 11 young pre-puberty girls were robbed of their property, two were robbed of their virginity, but all were denied their dignity by the despicable acts of this daring marauder," the Straits Times quoted Tay as saying. The news of the serial sex offender has shocked many people in Singapore. Asia. [Source: Agence France Presse, September 13, 2003]

Teenage Gang Crime

Reporting on teen violence in 2010, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Gang activity erupted into open violence and death, raising suspicions that behind the rising affluence, not everything is going well for a segment of Singapore's young generation. These are bored, disconnected teenagers, some as young as 13, who failed to make good in school, family life or work. "And they seemed to have declared open war on the police and on society" is a general public reaction to recent violent rampages by groups of parang-carrying teenagers bent on hurting bystanders or suspected rivals. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, November 13, 2010 /*\]

“As people celebrated Halloween in Downtown East—a sprawling entertainment zone situated on the eastern seafront not far from Changi Airport— polytechnic student Darren Ng, 19, and three friends were chased by chopper-wielding men at Downtown East and he was hacked to death. Five men have been charged with his murder, including one who suffered head injuries while trying to jump from a three-storey building. /*\

A week later: “Two separate attacks were reported in another part of Singapore. Some 20 youths (aged 14-20) were surrounded by a parang-carrying group shouting Hokkien expletives. A 20-year-old assistant technician, an Indian, was slashed in the back and legs, along with six other victims. A few days after that: Outside the court in which 16-year-old Louis Tong Qing Yao was being charged with Ng's murder, 19 suspected gang members turned out to support him and ended up being arrested. "Fifty years ago people joined gangs to earn a living. Today these kids do it for pride and thrill, not because of poverty," said an old hawker. /*\

“Recently, teenage gangs seemed to have started to flex their muscles in various neighbourhoods; that could be blamed partly on the widening gap between rich and poor. Their numbers are anybody's guess, ranging from several hundred to one or two thousand. "In much of Asia, teenage gangs are mainly a result of poverty. Here the chief factors are poor family environment and resentment against society," said a student councillor. (In 2009, 468 youths were arrested for rioting and 278 were arrested for the same crime in the first six months of 2010). /*\

“After decades of controlled, peaceful living, many of us have grown unfamiliar with severe violence, teen or otherwise, and are ill-prepared for what has just happened. Most parents, cocooned in stability for a whole generation, still think their children are incapable of creating mayhem. They grew up in a strict law-and-order setting, having to go to school wearing their hair short and their skirts long, and with jukeboxes banned. With teenagers' values constantly shaped and reshaped by films, violent video games and the Internet, many modern parents are finding it hard to communicate with - let alone influence - their children.” /*\

Police in Singapore

In the mid 2000s, the Singapore Police Force had an estimated strength of 12,000, including 3,500 conscripts. There also were 21,000 reserve police officers. The Singapore Police Force includes the Police Coast Guard, which has inshore patrol craft and about 60 other boats. Today the total police and internal security force has 38,600 members for a population of about 5.5 million. [Source: Library of Congress, Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, March 20, 2010 <>]

In Singapore and Malaysia only on-duty police officers and security agents can own and carry guns. In Singapore, police usually do not carry weapons in public. Those that do carry a .38-cal. Smith & Wesson pistol and a 38-centimeter wooden baton. Singapore has experimented with Japanese-style kobans (small neighborhood police offices). About 100 Gurkhas are selected for an elite unit of the Singaporean police.

DNA samples of people convicted of crimes are collected and stored in a database, which allows them to be compared with DNA samples collected at crime scenes. Career criminals have been convicted of crimes based on samples collected at crime scenes. Civil rights advocates complain that information from database could be abused by police, government agencies, banks and insurance companies. They are adamantly opposed to suggestions of creating a universal DNA database in Singapore on the basis of privacy.

In 2006, Reuters reported: “Police officers pretending to be homosexuals looking for sex arrested four gay men suspected of drug trafficking, police said. Two male undercover officers posed as gays to get access to a drug ring which supplied ecstasy pills exclusively to homosexual men, a spokeswoman for the Central Narcotics Bureau said, adding that officers had used this tactic before. The officers found six ecstasy pills in the raid and were led to the suppliers' flat where they found another 136 ecstasy pills and eight Erimin-5 tablets, a banned sedative. Two of the four arrested have been charged with drug trafficking, for which they face at least five years in prison and up to five strokes of the cane. "From our understanding, they believe that by consuming drugs while having sex, their sexual pleasure can be heightened," a police officer named Mark was quoted as saying by Singapore tabloid the New Paper. [Source: Reuters, March 10, 2006]

See Human Rights.

See Investigation of the American Engineer’s Death.

Police Checks on Singaporean Youths

In 2006, Channel News Asia reported: “Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Law Ho Peng Kee says the new policy where police check on teenagers in public areas after 11pm and inform their parents is one of many measures to engage youths on the issue of crime. Other measures include police road shows and prison visits, and a new police-NPCC youth ambassador programme to promote crime prevention. [Source: Channel News Asia, March 3, 2006 ++]

“MP Tan Soo Khoon has expressed concern that youths may feel that the checks would stifle their freedom. Mr Tan says: "What adults may view as loitering on the part of the young, the young consider that they are only hanging out or what they call chilling out with their friends, it is probably a harmless activity and we must therefore adopt a balanced approach. "Where they have done wrong, we have to take the necessary steps, and the best way is preventive action through education and that is the job of parents and teachers to tell them that crime does not pay." ++

Associate Professor Ho says: "Mr Tan has rightly mentioned that parents is a pivotal group. And this is where the recent initiative was actually meant to do. "To partner parents, to let them know that we are partners with you and through this measure, through the knowledge or information given to you, so that you are more effective as a parent. "Let me just say that police already conducts checks on youths found congregating in public areas after 11pm, basically to prevent them from getting into trouble, either as victims or perpetrators of a crime. "So last year in fact, during school holidays, some 15,000 checks were conducted, so it is nothing new." ++

Mob Counter-Attack Against Police During a Red Light District Raid

Describing a mob attack on police in 2008, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Do not be afraid of the police! They only have four men, and we have so many; don’t be afraid! With these chilling words, a hostile mob of 200 set upon four policemen conducting a night raid on an illegal gambling den. In a scene reminiscent of the days of secret societies, the unruly crowd shouted obscenities and threw bottles, stones and chairs at the four detectives. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, March 20, 2010]

It occurred when the policemen were carrying out raids in the red-light area of Geylang. One detective was kicked in the mouth and another in the head and back. The violence, which lasted 15 minutes, prompted a policeman to draw his pistol and fire a warning shot. Several rioters were detained, and two of them brought to trial recently. One got 15 months in jail, and the other is out on bail pending appeal.

For months in 2008, police conducted a series of large-scale raids in Geylang, Orchard Road and other hot spots, including the following: A) March 14: About 400 police and anti-vice officers swept nightspots, arresting 175 people for various criminal activities. B) February 7: A multi-agency operation, the second in as many weeks, nabbed more than 158 people for gang-related activities, immigration offences and drug-taking. C0 January 23: Some 170 people were arrested in a massive 14-hour operation at Geylang, led by the Criminal Investigation Department. Some 200 officers took part.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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