On Assignment
Lifting the Lid: Keeping Vice Out of Our Heartlands
Nowhere to hide – how SPF officers are combating illegal vice activities in our heartlands.

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PHOTOS: Ashley Tuen and Soo Jun Xiang

Located in Woodlands, the two HDB flats looked ordinary, and as we learnt, were remarkably similar inside – tightly shut windows and doors, clothing strewn across the floor, instant noodle cups on the dining table, minimal furniture and appliances. The message was clear – the occupants of these units would only be there temporarily.

It was a warm Friday afternoon in October 2019 and I was with a team of dedicated officers of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), on an anti-vice enforcement operation. Acting swiftly, the officers had entered and secured the two flats, and were now processing the crime scenes to collect evidence. 

According to SPF, organised vice syndicates have increasingly sought to move into our residential estates. Such criminal activities have affected the sense of safety and security enjoyed by residents, and caused inconvenience to the community at large. As we saw that afternoon, rigorous investigations and enforcement by SPF officers on the ground will make the difference.
 
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PHOTO: Soo Jun Xiang

Inside the first flat that the officers had raided, the lights gave the unit a warm, orange glow, and the walls were yellow with age. As all the windows were tightly shut, the air within was stale, the unit stuffy. 

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PHOTO: Soo Jun Xiang

A team of SPF officers carefully combed the flat for evidence and fresh leads. On a bed sat two suspects, their heads lowered, along with a collection of mobile phones and condoms. According to the officers, vice syndicates have increasingly used various online platforms to ply their illegal trade.

Home Team News SPF Woodlands Anti Vice 04
PHOTOS: Ashley Tuen and Soo Jun Xiang

As we made our way around the flat, we saw warnings stuck on the walls, reminding occupants about the need to keep secret their criminal activities. On this Friday afternoon, these efforts had proved useless. 

Home Team News SPF Woodlands Anti Vice 05
PHOTOS: Ashley Tuen and Soo Jun Xiang

The second flat that the SPF officers raided was just a few blocks away from the first. Located on the ground floor, this executive apartment with hoardings installed was secured by a keyless electronic door lock. 

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PHOTO: Soo Jun Xiang

Entering the flat, we found that it was dimly-lit, with numbered rooms. Four suspects were huddled together as SPF officers searched the unit and secured evidence. Towels, used tissues, condoms and sexual enhancement aids were scattered about. 

Home Team News SPF Woodlands Anti Vice 07
PHOTO: Soo Jun Xiang

The enforcement operation saw six suspects aged between 25 and 45 arrested and taken away for further questioning. SPF officers will also conduct investigations to uncover syndicate members and other persons involved in prostitution activities, to ensure that they face the full brunt of the law. 

A firm warning was also issued to those who seek to bring their shady trade into our heartlands: “Police will spare no effort to curb such illegal vice activities,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Deculan Goh, Specialised Crime Branch, Criminal Investigation Division, SPF.


We Can All Play a Role 
To combat vice activities in residential areas, property owners and residents can play their part by being vigilant and looking out for suspicious tenants and characters in their neighbourhood. These should be reported to the Police at 1800-255-0000 or www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. Information received will be kept strictly confidential.

Here are some measures that property owners can take to ensure that their premises aren’t rented for vice activities:

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The Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill
The Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on 4 November 2019. The amendments will strengthen the Police’s levers against syndicates that facilitate prostitution or vice activities. The key amendments cover:
- Extra-territorial jurisdiction;  
- Enhanced penalties for prostitution-related offences; and
- Responsible lease of premises.

Read the Press Release for the First Reading.

Read the Second Reading Speech and Wrap-Up Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Ashley Tuen
  2. 02 November 2019
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