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Policing with Youths: “I want to see others safe”
It was a quiet, breezy Tuesday morning at Tebing Lane… until a few exuberant voices pleasantly interrupted the neighbourhood calm before quickly complementing it.

Mr Akhbar Bin Hussein was on his way to a fish farm when two teenage boys in blue waved and stopped him in his tracks.

It was a quiet, breezy Tuesday morning in Punggol, on 09 September 2014.

All he wanted to do was to cycle across the red bridge of Punggol Waterway. The sprightly 60-year-old avid cycling enthusiast who lives in Hougang had just completed his daily training route in preparation for an upcoming bicycle race in Kota Tinggi.

“Good morning, Sir,” chirped one of the enthusiastic boys. “Can we help push your bike across? We are from the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC).”

No, it was not a ‘roadblock’. It was one of the exciting activities Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) had organised for these NPCC cadets that morning. The teenagers from Greendale Secondary School got to conduct patrols on their bicycles along with the Police, and they also helped to dispense bicycle labels designed to deter bicycle thefts. 

“This is a good initiative! It makes us feel more safe,” said an appreciative Mr Akhbar, smilingly.

At 9 am that morning, about 80 students from Greendale Secondary School’s National Police Cadet Corps eagerly embarked on their school holiday, crime-prevention expedition with Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre’s Community Policing Unit officers, and showed us how they too can contribute in the initiation of creative responses to some common neighbourhood problems.

The group was divided into three teams, each with specific roles and important tasks to accomplish that day.

Students of Greendale Secondary School all eager to begin their neighbourhood patrols with Punggol NPC's friendly cops. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

“We hold quarterly meetings with the principals of all the schools in Punggol to find out more about some of the issues and safety concerns the youths here face and to discuss ways for us to help, engage, include and interact with them,” shared Inspector (Insp) Abrartaufik Bin Jasmani, Officer-in-Charge of Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre’s Community Policing Unit. “It’s a Singapore Police Force (SPF) initiative, and in the midst of it, we realised that there are actually many opportunities for us to collaborate and explore crime-fighting possibilities with these students. We visit them during their recess time and hold such joint patrols during their holidays. It’s a pilot activity for us and it’s heartening to see it expanding.”

Community policing is at the heart of SPF’s approach to public safety and it builds cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships between the Police and the community by sharing the responsibility for identifying, reducing, eliminating and preventing problems that impact community safety and order.

That morning, while the bicycle patrol team consisting of exuberant students and sharp-eyed Police officers surveyed Punggol Waterway to look out for unusual activities, they also interacted with cyclists and residents, dispensed crime prevention advisories in the form of cleverly designed flyers and issued many more bicycle security labels. These temper-proof, unique labels contain unique sets of identity numbers that help prevent and solve bicycle thefts. To obtain the security labels and register their bicycles, residents can proceed to any NPC with their bikes.

An NPCC cadet helps a cyclist paste the bicycle security label provided by the Singapore Police Force. The special label aids in tracking and solving theft cases should a loss of a registered bicycle be reported.   PHOTO: Mabel Yap

The team at Waterway also reminded cyclists not to leave their bicycles unattended, unchained and in an isolated area. A couple of students excitedly suggested extending their efforts to Punggol jetty and Kovan to spread the awareness, while others cheerily celebrated how they are part of this collective bid to enhance police-citizen communication that would in turn help officers more effectively use and share crime information with the public.

“I totally enjoy this,” said 16-year-old Teo Hon Kiat, a Secondary Four NPCC cadet from Greendale. “It’s better than staying at home and playing games or doing nothing!”

In Punggol Plaza, the foot patrol team was busy distributing crime prevention advisories to residents doing their morning marketing.

“The shopkeepers and general public are warming up and they are more accustomed to our presence now. This collaboration with the students is good as it helps raise awareness and builds confidence in the youths and the community,” said Sergeant Muhd Jumari who mentored a group of NPCC cadets who joined him in informing shopkeepers and shoppers about scams and other criminal activities.

Sergeant Muhd Jumari and student Eunice Teo sharing crime prevention advisories with members of the public at Punggol Plaza.  PHOTO: Mabel Yap

Secondary Three student, Eunice Teo, appeared hesitant at first, but quickly became more confident in approaching the morning crowd and spreading the word about crimes residents can protect themselves against. Many times, she would proactively walk into stores and articulate the information shopkeepers and employees needed to know to keep themselves and their customers safe.

“I have done this many times, maybe five to six times, and I still enjoy it,” she said. “It’s not easy but it is very meaningful, because I get to spread awareness to keep Singapore safe. I am glad I am part of this.”

A similar sense of purpose her fellow NPCC cadets and schoolmates would also attest to.

“Some of us have problems communicating with the residents because of the difference in language. But we try to find translators among us,” said 15-year-old Chew Jia Wei. “We are happy doing this, because we can help prevent crimes in Singapore. For me, I want to see others safe.”

Jia Wei and his co-cadet Goh Hui Ying, also 15, candidly shared that although they started out with a bit of apprehension, the shared mission to help others had helped them overcome the initial uncertainty. “I would say to youths who are considering joining us that if you are afraid or nervous, we were too, when we first joined in Secondary One. But you will get used to it after doing this a few times. We hope people will join us in our efforts to spread awareness of crimes like scams and thefts that can be prevented,” said Jia Wei.

“Yes, and the Police officers give us a major briefing before each event too,” added Hui Ying. “I remember I was nervous as well in Sec One. Once, the moment I rang the doorbell of one home, the owner’s dogs ran towards the door and slammed themselves against it, scaring us! But our seniors and teachers would help us out and share with us their experiences to assure us. The officers are very friendly and approachable too and they would always help us to explain to the residents when we are stuck.”

Both students were part of the third joint patrol team that conducted house visits that Tuesday morning, knocking on every door of Blocks 207 to 213 in Punggol to keep residents up to speed on the internet and lottery scams some had fallen victim to. Senior Station Inspector Norazmi Ahmad stayed close, encouraging and advising the youths on effective ways to share crime prevention tips with the residents, and providing fuller context whenever anyone was explaining to a home owner how the bicycle security labels work. 

“The students are very good, very helpful and enthusiastic. They are very excited to meet new people and to speak with them. Some residents even invited us in, and are less sceptical. It’s quite encouraging to know that they believe in us,” he shared. “As we make our rounds, you can see some of the youths are more confident now with sharing the advisories.”

 Senior Station Inspector Norazmi Ahmad explaining to Mr Teh, a resident in Punggol, how the bicycle security label works. Along with the NPCC cadets, he shares crime prevention advisories from door to door.  PHOTO: Mabel Yap

Every school Punggol NPC works with to organise joint patrols gets such first-hand experiences at least twice a year, during their school holidays. Punggol NPC also engaged them in Neighbourhood Watch Day in February 2014.

“They are great ambassadors and help convey crime prevention messages with us,” said Insp Taufik. “We hope these students will promote a crime free lifestyle to their friends in school and also other youths around them.”

Inspector Abrartaufik Bin Jasmani, Officer-in-Charge of Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre’s Community Policing Unit, and his team of passionate officers are dedicated to keeping the neighbourhood under their watch safe.  PHOTO: Mabel Yap
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Mabelle Yeo
  2. 10 September 2014
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