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     Home Affairs Minister tackles MPs' questions on crime situation

Continued from FrontPage of Article

Budget Book KPIs

The increase in theft and related offences, especially in relation to handphones, is one of the reasons for the increase in the number of seizable offences, as reflected in the Budget Book. Another key reason for this increase is more intensive Police enforcement against drink driving, which reflects the Home Team¡¯s commitment to keep our roads safe.

To address Mr Low Thia Khiang¡¯s and Mr Charles Chong¡¯s query about MHA¡¯s key performance indicators, may I say that except for an increasing crime trend, the Home Team has met, if not exceeded, most of its key performance targets in FY2004, and is expected to do as well for FY2005despite heightened security demands and limited resources.

As regards the targets set for our indicators, I should point out that, among the targets for key performance indicators mentioned by Mr Low, two of them were actually revised upwards in FY04. For ¡°percentage of urgent cases responded to within 15 minutes¡±, the target was revised from 85% to 87%, while the target of ¡°percentage of non-urgent cases responded to within 30 minutes¡± was raised from 85% to 90%. The upward adjustment was due in part to a sustained period of good performance. And while the actual performances on these two indicators from FY03 to FY05 have declined as reflected in the Budget Book, they have still exceeded their performance targets.

Despite heightened security demands, we have kept those two targets constant since FY04 and they are thus projected at 87 per cent and 90 per cent respectively for FY06. In addition, the target for ¡°percentage of 999 calls answered within 10 seconds¡± has remained constant and was not adjusted downwards; it remains at a stringent 90 per cent between FY03 to FY05. Although the performance for this target declined slightly from 99 per cent in FY03 to 97.4 per cent in FY05, a 1.6 per cent point difference, it still exceeds the target of 90 per cent.

We should therefore look at MHA¡¯s performance on these KPIs in perspective, and remember that they are all 90 per cent or better, despite recently revising two of our targets upwards. Notwithstanding that, we will continue to do our best to improve our performance vis-¨¤-vis the targets.

Mr Low Thia Khiang asked if there has been a compromise on neighborhood security due to the focus on counter terrorism and hosting of high profile international events like the IMF World Bank meetings. Let me assure members that there we will continue to pay close attention to neighborhood policing and security. The Home Team has been able to manage its limited resources effectively, so that we can balance the different competing demands while maintaining high levels of operational readiness and effectiveness.

While the headcount policy does impose some constraints on the ministry, we have been able to manage the increase in demands because of the corporatisation of CISCO, which came into effect last year. As such, we have kept manpower resources in the Police relatively stable, at about 8,000 regular Police officers. If we include the National Service and non-uniformed component, the Police's strength has increased from 35,500 in 2001 to 37,200 in 2005.

Ultimately, what matters is not having a ubiquitous and pervasive Police presence but the effectiveness of the Policing strategy. This is translated into the sense of security people feel when they walk around Singapore. Safety and security are valued dimensions in the quality of life in Singapore. In the first nation-wide Safety and Security Survey conducted in Oct 2004, 83 per cent of the respondents felt safe in the neighborhood they lived in and 70 per cent did not see crime as a problem. Foreigners have consistently provided feedback that they are amazed at how safe they feel when walking on the streets of Singapore in the wee hours of the night. They find this all the more impressive because they do not see an overwhelming police presence.

Gun-related Incidents

Ms Indranee Rajah has also asked about the increase in gun-related incidents. From the data we have for the past 5 years on firearm offences, it appears that the recent gun-related incidents are isolated incidents. Between 2001 and 2005, there were only two cases of firearm offences, one in 2002 andanother in 2003.

While we need not be overly concerned about violent crimes involving firearms becoming a serious problem in Singapore, we will continue nevertheless to be vigilant and maintain our tough, zero-tolerance stance towards firearm offences. This is backed by the Arms Offences Act, which prescribes heavy punishment, including the death penalty, for offenders convicted of trafficking in arms or committing or attempting to commit scheduled offences with arms.

Loan Sharks

Sir, another crime which has an impact on the overall law and order situation is that of unlicenced moneylending or loansharking. Dr Tan Boon Wan has asked for an update of the loanshark situation since we amended the Moneylenders Act, which came into effect on the 1st of January this year. Thus far, 7 people have been charged under the new Moneylenders Act for unlicensed moneylending with 2 of them simultaneously facing additional charges of harassment.

Since then, Police has also conducted three successful major operations which led to the arrest of 36 people. Cash amounting to $170,000 were seized together with notebooks, desktop computers and mobile phones. These operations have been made possible because Police has centralised and beefed up its intelligence and enforcement resources under the Anti-Unlicensed Moneylending Task Forceat the Criminal Investigation Department to tackle this scourge.

Sir, the process of taking down an unlicensed moneylending syndicate, or any criminal syndicates such as drug trafficking for that matter, requires detailed and lengthy investigations and intelligence gathering. Therefore, it will take some time before we can see the full effect of the enhanced efforts to tackle this problem. We are making good progress, and the overall assessment is that the enhanced penalties under the Moneylenders Act, the use of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, our policy of cancelling the passports of convicted or detained higher-tier loansharks as well as more intensive enforcement actions by the Police are beginning to have an impact on the ground. Police is also working with other Government agencies, such as Ministry of Law, Housing Development Board and Monetary Authority of Singapore to deal with the problem comprehensively. We will continue to put pressure on these loansharks, to make it more difficult for them to operate in Singapore.

Mr Tan also asked about the case of the woman who suffered a miscarriage after confronting a loanshark. At this stage, we are unable to reveal any details on this case as investigations are ongoing. However, I wish to assure the House that Police takes a stern view of unlicensed money lending activities and will not let up on its efforts to bring to justice the culprit of this case and for other cases.

Strategies to Tackle Crime

Sir, my Ministry will continue to monitor crime trends, adjust our crime-fighting strategies and make legislative amendments if necessary to enhance deterrence. One of the strategies that the Police will continue to pursue is a strong partnership with the community in preventing crime. This recent partnership with the community went back a long way and I thank Singaporeans for their contributions in community policing.

Engaging the Community

Police will work with grassroots organisations to promote a greater sense of vigilance in the neighbourhood. In particular, grassroots volunteers, such as those in the Citizens-on-Patrol (COP) scheme, would be encouraged to pay particular attention to HDB void decks and other common areas during their patrols. Police will also leverage on the Neighbourhood Watch Zone (NWZ) scheme to rope in more residents to help look out for one another and inform Police of suspicious persons loitering in their neighbourhood.

The SMS Crime Alert Services is another new initiative by the Police. Under this scheme, Police will send SMS messages to alert community leaders, Neighbourhood Watch Zone volunteers and business associations on salient crime trends. This has been tried out on a pilot basis since August last year and Police will consider extending the SMS alert service to the wider community this year.

Police is also working with Town Councils to install CCTVs in common areas at HDB estates, such as the ground lift landings and void decks, as a crime prevention measure as well as to deter littering and other localised problems.

In view of the high incidence of crimes involving handphones, Police is implementing measures to disrupt the disposal of stolen handphones. Since June 2005, where there are reasons to do so, Police has checked the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of handphones of persons who are stopped by the Police. In April 2006, a website will be set up to enable the public to check if a used handphone they intend to purchase has been reported stolen.


Police will also step up its public education efforts through a poster advertisement campaign to remind the public to be alert against handphone and other crimes.

CONCLUSION

Sir, while the crime rate has gone up in 2005, the overall law and order situation remains well under control. Singapore remains still one of the safest cities in the world.

Sir, the Home Team will continue to work closely with the community to ensure that Singapore remains a safe and secure best home for us all. This is because keeping Singapore safe and secure is not just the responsibility of MHA alone. Indeed, public-assisted arrests accounted for 42 per cent of the arrest of criminals involved in outraging of modesty, housebreaking, robbery, motor vehicle theft, snatch theft, murder and rape in 2005. I think very few countries in the world can achieve this rate of public-assisted arrests. Every Singaporean has a part to play, whether it is making sure that his handphone is not carelessly left around or his home properly secured. Every Singaporean can help beat crime by being vigilant and by alerting the Police of any suspicious activity in the neighbourhood.

To summarise, crime remains a key aspect of MHA¡¯s focus. This however should not and must not detract us from our fight to keep terrorists out of Singapore and to put in place measures to deal with a terrorist incident if one ever happens in Singapore. But low crime does not mean no crime.

Source: www.mha.gov.sg Media Release 2 Mar 2006

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