Commissioner of Police, Mr Ng Joo Hee
Members of the GPC
Distinguished Guests and members of the community
Officers of the Singapore Police Force
Good morning. I am pleased to join you at the Police Workplan Seminar.
2. The Singapore Police Force has helped to keep Singapore safe and secure over the years. Crime rates fell over the past year. In particular, the number of violent property crimes as well as housebreaking and related crimes was the lowest in the past 20 years.
3. Crime in Singapore is generally lower than other comparable cities. As such, the 2011 Quality of Living Survey by Mercer and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012 both recognise Singapore as one of the safest cities in the world. This contributes to the better living and investment environment in Singapore.
4. Police have done well in investigating and solving crime, particularly serious crime. For example, of the 16 murders that took place in 2011, only one case remains to be solved. I think there are two important points about these statistics. While each murder and each loss of life is significant, compared to other cities in the world with similar populations, 16 murders is low. This allows us to put resources into CID so as to solve these murders, so that people know that if they commit such crimes, they are not going to get away. This itself helps to lower the crime rate. Police also solved 87% of all housebreaking cases in 2011. This is also very high by any global comparison.
5. There have also been a number of occasions where SPF cracked the case and arrested the culprits within a short time. For example, the ATM skimming case was resolved in a relatively short time. And just two weeks ago, two housebreakers were arrested – one within 2 hours of the housebreaking, and the other within 10 hours. All these reflect the professionalism of our Police officers and gives confidence to our population and community, that crime does not pay and that there will be retribution.
6. But the Police must constantly look ahead, and see how it can better meet the demands of the future. Public expectations are rising. In 2011, 89% of urgent cases reported by the community had an officer at the scene within 15 minutes, and 92% of non-urgent cases within 30 minutes. However, it is often the remaining 8 and 11% of cases that attract the most attention, as people feel aggrieved that they were not helped in good time. People feel unhappy because they felt the police were too slow to respond and rightly so, as this was important to them.
7. The nature of crime is also changing. For example, criminals are turning to high-volume operations through technology, such as credit card fraud and ATM skimming. Some are also using technology to broaden the scope of operations across geographical boundaries, and to hide their identity, as in the case of phone and Internet scams.
8. These challenges cannot be overcome simply by doing more of the same thing, or with more policemen. The things Police have done well before may not be enough to deal with new challenges. Instead, it is important for Police to position itself for the future, by staying ahead of crime, and deepening partnerships with the community. Only then, can the Police maintain the trust that the community has vested in our officers, which allows our officers to work well with the community to keep that sense of safety and security where we live.
Staying ahead of crime
9. Let me first talk about staying ahead of crime. Technology allows criminals to operate and collaborate across borders more easily. Traditional syndicates such as those involved in unlicensed moneylending have gone transnational. There are many examples of terrorists moving between nations to train, be trained, seek shelter or conduct attacks, including the Bangkok bomb attacks earlier this year.
10. It is therefore important for Police to build partnerships and capabilities to operate across borders, and make better use of technology to stay ahead of crime. For example, over the next few years, CID will continue to introduce new tools under their Technology Crime Forensics Roadmap. This will ensure that their ability to recover data from damaged devices and to analyse video images keeps pace with what technology can offer.
11. Technology can also help make our officers more productive, and reduce the amount of mundane work so that that they can spend more time on things that make a real difference to crime fighting and community security. I am pleased to see that there are a number of technology projects displayed in the exhibition outside. Some of these projects are still under development, such as the automated number plate recognition technology in the next-generation fast response car and the enhanced Neighbourhood Police Post.
12. But other projects are already underway. For example, as part of the Community Policing System (COPS), the Police will be installing police cameras at key ingress and egress locations, such as ground-floor lift landings, of all 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey car parks in Singapore. While these cameras will not be monitored in real time, they can deter crime and the images that they record can assist in solving crime.
13. The 300 HDB blocks and multi-storey car parks in the pilot phase will receive the cameras by the end of this month. Town Councils that wish to join the Police Camera project will start to receive some cameras from the fourth quarter of this year, as part of the next tranche of 700 blocks.
14. The Police will also continue to provide training and upgrading opportunities to ensure that our officers are familiar with the latest criminal trends and technologies, and have the necessary skills to solve cases swiftly and surely. The Home Team School of Criminal Investigation was set up last July to provide comprehensive investigation training for Home Team officers. The School is embarking on a project to use virtual crime scenes for practical lessons, to inject greater realism in the learning experiences.
Deepening Partnerships with the Community
15. While Police can invest resources into building up its capabilities, Police cannot fight crime effectively on its own. It also needs strong support and cooperation from the community, in terms of sharing information with the Police and working with Police to detect and prevent crime. For each pair of eyes the Police officer has, there are a hundred more pairs of eyes and ears in the community that can help the Police to keep the community safe.
16. We already have a healthy level of community engagement in Singapore, with 525 Citizens-on-Patrol groups and 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch Groups. But we can do more to build a stronger and deeper partnership between the Police and the community. Our vision is for Police to work closely with an active, cohesive and engaged community, which takes ownership of keeping its own neighbourhood safe and secure.
17. This does not mean that Police will do less to keep the neighbourhood safe. Instead, we recognise that there are some areas where the community is better able to take the lead, for example, engaging our at-risk youths. While Police has organised some well-received activities, such as the Delta Football League, the community is better placed to give at-risk youths a more diverse and enriching experience through meaningful and interesting alternative activities.
18. For this partnership to further develop, we need to reach out to more of the community, and work more closely with stakeholders. Therefore, Police will be dedicating more resources to community engagement efforts, with the introduction of the Community Policing Unit, comprising 16 officers on average, to every NPC under the COPS model.
19. These 16 officers will have more dedicated time to work with stakeholders on partnership projects, and will also be assigned to specific beats to conduct foot and bicycle patrols. So these 16 officers alone will not be able to do the work alone; their purpose is to multiply themselves by drawing in more community partners to help keep the community safe. Bukit Merah East and Tampines NPC will transition to the COPS model on 17 May, with six more NPCs to follow in the last quarter of 2012. These are Bishan, Clementi, Sengkang and Woodlands NPCs, as well as the new NPCs in Punggol and Woodlands West. So the idea is not that the community has 16 more police officers to call upon whenever you need them to do something, but rather that you have 16 more officers in every NPC to help you to develop programmes which will help the community and police to keep the neighbourhood safe and secure.
20. Police will also do more in its outreach and public education efforts.
21. One important area is unlicensed moneylending. The Police has kept up the pressure on unlicensed moneylenders. The number of UML and related harassment cases fell by 21% last year, while the number of arrests for such activities rose by 31% compared to the year before. However, despite the public attention on loanshark harassment over the past years, there are still some people who borrow from unlicensed moneylenders, causing distress to their neighbours when they do not pay. Or worse still, they conduct harassment on behalf of unlicensed moneylenders, frightening innocent households and persons in the process. We need to discourage such actions which are both self-destructive and cause distress to the wider community. Police will thus be launching a public education and awareness campaign on the risks of borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders, to deter would-be borrowers. Borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders does not solve your problems, but will more likely compound your problems.
22. Police will also step up its online presence. SPF’s highly popular Facebook page has garnered more than 282,000 “likes” making it one of the top Police pages in the world. Building on this experience, Choa Chu Kang and Tampines NPC will be launching their NPC Facebook pages later this month. Police is also working to develop an upgraded version of the “Police@SG” smartphone application which has attracted more than 65,000 downloads thus far. In addition, Police will be piloting “live” e-Townhall discussions on topics of concern, such as UML harassment and youth crime.
Maintaining Law and Order
23. Besides fighting crime, Police has also been doing good work in maintaining law and order. This is important, because it affects the sense of well-being in the community.
24. For example, Police and other government agencies received over 100,000 complaints about noise last year. Rowdy parties at night that continue into the wee hours of the morning can affect neighbours who are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Large groups of noisy youths loitering in void decks at night can also make people feel unsafe in their neighbourhoods.
25. Households live in close proximity to each other in Singapore, and we depend primarily on natural ventilation for our homes. Therefore sound travels. People need to learn to be more considerate as well as tolerant, and respectful of others in their daily actions. This is all part of living together – to give-and-take. Many complaints can be avoided if the community came together to foster courtesy and to mediate in disputes, before resorting to calling the authorities. In fact, Police are often put in a difficult position when two parties who disagree on what is good neighbourly behaviour want the Police to take action against the other party.
26. Within the bounds of resource constraints, Police will continue to work with the community to build mutual understanding and respect, and where police intervention is necessary, respond appropriately to help residents feel safe in their homes. Sometimes, using the force of the law doesn’t solve the problem, but may exacerbate the problem and deepen differences between neighbours who have to live together for a long time to come here.
Sustaining the Community’s Trust
27. Ultimately, keeping Singapore safe and secure will depend heavily on whether we can sustain the community’s trust in the Police. The riots in London last year, and past riots in other cities, show how quickly public order can degenerate in communities where trust in the Police or the criminal justice system have broken down. The issue there is groups which don’t trust the police to do their work fairly combating the polive, instead of police stepping in between two combating groups. So when trust in the police is lost, and it becomes an ‘us vs. police’ situation, things become very complicated then. For many crimes, the availability of witnesses who are willing to testify is crucial to successful prosecution. One example is the on-going spate of shootings in Sydney that have been carried out by biker gangs, known colloquially as ‘bikies’, since August last year. Sydney police have been frustrated by a wall of silence from victims and witnesses, who clearly have information about what happened and those responsible, but will not speak up because of their own involvement in such gangs, or out of fear of gang reprisals. Their police are frustrated because they don’t have the tools to deal with the biker gangs, and because people are afraid to come forward to testify. As a result, the problem carries on.
28. Our police officers enjoy high public respect and regard. Police officers are the ones the public turn to when they are in need.
29. It is therefore important for police officers to strive to be professional and honourable in their conduct at all times. Police officers must deal appropriately with members of the public, and strive to be professional, fair and firm, even under difficult circumstances, or at the end of a very long shift.
30. On our part, we will continue to invest in our people, to attract not just the right number of officers, but the officers with the right qualities, and also to ensure that they are adequately equipped to meet the demands of their job. For example, Community Policing Unit officers will not only be trained to conduct foot and bicycle patrols. They will also receive additional training in communication and conflict resolution skills to facilitate their interactions with the community.
31. Even with the best officers and the best training, mistakes may be made from time to time. The key is how we take corrective actions and learn from the incident to avoid similar mistakes in future and become better as a Force. The public may be able to accept that genuine mistakes can happen in spite of an officer’s best efforts, and I will accept that too, but the public will not tolerate us repeating the same mistake.
32. However, it is unacceptable if the mistake arises from a deliberate misuse of powers, unethical or self-serving behaviour. We will investigate and discipline such officers appropriately, to ensure that the Singapore Police Force is upright and honourable, and that each one of you who wears that uniform and carries that warrant badge does so with pride and integrity, and to send the message that the Force does not tolerate wrongful behaviour in our officers.
33. Singapore is one of the few cities in the world where it is safe for anyone to walk alone, anywhere and at any time of the day. This is an achievement that we can be proud of, as a Police Force and as a nation. We take this as a matter of cause and take this lightly, but it is a great achievement for us as a people and a country, and for our police force.
34. To sustain this level of safety and security in Singapore, we need to plan and prepare ourselves to stay ahead of crime, build deeper partnerships with the community, and sustain the trust of the community.
35. After having visited many Police units over the past year, I am impressed by the dedication of our men and women to keeping Singapore safe and secure, every day, 24/7. I am therefore confident that SPF can rise above the challenges it faces and be a “Force for the Nation”.
36. On this note, I wish all of you a fruitful seminar and I hope that we all will work together to keep Singapore safe and secure. Thank you.