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Lifting the Lid: Here’s What Happens During an Anti-Gang Operation
How does the Secret Societies Branch crack down on secret societies? We lift the lid on anti-gang enforcement operations.

It was 10pm on a Friday night – the end of a work-week for many, but not for officers in the Secret Societies Branch (SSB). They were on high alert and gearing up to conduct anti-gang enforcement operations in different parts of Singapore.

A part of the Singapore Police Force, the SSB is one of eight branches under the Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Specialised Crime Division. It investigates cases involving gang-related activities and carries out anti-gang operations regularly, targeting hotspots like nightclubs, online gaming shops, as well as gang haunts during major festive periods and school holidays.

Together with other members of the media, I hopped into a Police van and headed towards an undisclosed location in central Singapore for a closer look at how the SSB conducts its enforcement operations.

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A peek into the world of SSB officers. PHOTOS: Muhamad Khair


Exploring Singapore’s Underbelly

Anticipation grew as we came closer to the location. SSB officers had arrived first; they locked the area down before raiding an illegal gambling area.

The smell of stale cigarettes and burnt offerings hung in the air, and the ground wet from the night's rain. It was shared that those who run such gambling services believed in burning offerings to promote good business.

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Patrons of the illegal gambling establishment. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Gambling-related paraphernalia such as gambling chips and a gaming sheet for the game “Da Xiao” (“Big Small” in Mandarin) were scattered on white tables – evidence of the illegal public gaming that had taken place just moments before.

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Gambling-related paraphernalia seized by officers that night. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

More than 20 individuals were seen to be rounded up, and most were cooperative. The SSB officers were swift and composed as they carried out the operation, taking down the personal particulars of the individuals and checking whether they were involved in gang-related activities.

One Down, One More to Go

With the first location secured, the SSB officers proceeded to their second objective for the night: a nightclub in Chinatown.

As we reached the third storey of a shopping centre, we waited outside a nightclub for SSB officers to allow us to proceed. The tension was broken when they abruptly emerged with an apparently intoxicated middle-aged man who, according to the officers, had shouted gang-related slogans while in the nightclub. He was subsequently placed under arrest.

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SSB officers apprehending a man for shouting gang-related slogans. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Under the Societies Act, it is an offence for any person to be or act as a member of an unlawful society. Penalties include imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.

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SSB officers noting down the particulars of individuals they had rounded up at the nightclub. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair


The Work of the SSB: “Dangerous and Unpredictable”

Danger is synonymous with the work of SSB officers – they often enter into potentially risky scenarios that put their resolve and skills to the test.

“Nowadays, most gangs no longer operate within clear, demarcated geographical boundaries. SSB officers are constantly faced with the challenge of detecting gang-related activities and identifying gang members during anti-gang operations,” said Superintendent Bernard Wee, Head of the SSB. “While the nature of SSB’s work can be dangerous and unpredictable, our officers remain relentless in their enforcement efforts and will not hesitate to take swift and decisive action against gang members found to be involved in criminal activities.”

Through laws like the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, secret societies remain under control. But the threat to safety and public order remains.

The anti-gang operations ended around 2:30am that night – while most of us are asleep, SSB officers are out there weeding out secret societies so that we can have a safe and secure home. I went home with a better understanding of these officers, and the assurance that we were in good hands.

Hotline

If you wish to leave a gang or suspect that someone might be involved in a gang, you can call the Secret Societies Branch at 6435-0000.

The Criminal Law Temporary Provisions Act (CLTPA)

The Bill to extend the CLTPA was passed in Parliament on 6 February 2018. The Act keeps Singapore safe and secure by effectively suppressing serious criminal activities. The CLTPA has been used to cripple gangs operating in Singapore and drug trafficking syndicates; against persons involved in loansharking activities; and to detain members of syndicates. In 2017, the CLTPA was used against two armed and violent gangs. In both cases, victims were unwilling or unable to identify their attackers, and while gang members were prepared to give evidence, they would not do so in court, for fear of reprisal.

Read the Second Reading Speech and Wrap-up Speech on the CLTPA by Minister of Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Muhamad Khair
  2. 01 March 2018
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