Published: 09 January 2017
Ms Chia Yong Yong: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what action will the Government take against (i) illegal gambling dens, many of which operate openly in the back lanes of the lorongs in Geylang, (ii) illegal medicine peddlers in Geylang, (iii) illegal pasting of advertisements on lamp posts and other public properties in Geylang, and (iv) illegal sale of cigarettes, most of which operate openly without fear or regard for the law.
1. Over the past three years, serious crimes reported at Geylang, such as robbery and snatch theft, have fallen by more than 42%, from 134 in 2013 to 77 in 2016. Public order-related cases such as affray and serious hurt have also fallen by 27%, from 51 in 2013 to 37 in 2016. Nonetheless, more can be done to address the other offences and social disamenities at Geylang.
2. The various offences reported at Geylang, such as those raised by Ms Chia Yong Yong, come under the purview of multiple agencies beyond the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, to enhance enforcement effectiveness, the various agencies co-ordinate their actions closely. This co-ordinated approach is underpinned by:
b. Leveraging technology; and
c. Optimising enforcement resources across agencies.
Let me touch on these aspects in turn, and explain how they have enabled us to deal more effectively with the specific issues raised by Ms Chia.
3. First, information-sharing between agencies. An inter-agency operations centre (IAOC) led by Police, has been established at the Geylang Neighbourhood Police Centre since May 2016. The IAOC allows multiple agencies to plan and execute enforcement operations in a coordinated manner. Take the example of the sale of duty-unpaid cigarettes, an issue which was raised by Ms Chia. The IAOC's CCTV camera feeds of Geylang allow Singapore Customs and Police to conduct surveillance, identify persons-of-interest, locate storage areas for duty-unpaid cigarettes, and mount joint-operations to apprehend illegal peddlers and seize the cigarettes.
4. Second, our enforcement agencies are deploying more technology to enhance their effectiveness at Geylang. The Police have installed more Police cameras and improved the lighting at the Geylang lorongs. A total of 171 cameras have been installed at Geylang since 2015. This is a fourfold increase from the 47 cameras in 2014. The increased street lighting and wider network of cameras enhance the deterrence and detection of illicit activities at back alleys and side lanes, including those mentioned by Ms Chia such as the peddling of duty-unpaid cigarettes and illegal gambling.
5. Third, to optimise the limited enforcement resources available, the various law enforcement agencies have pooled and re-organised existing auxiliary police officers into multi-skilled enforcement teams. Unlike single-agency teams which have a limited scope of enforcement, these multi-skilled teams allow officers to take action against multiple offences during each enforcement round, therefore delivering a greater impact on safety and security at Geylang with the same amount of resources. Since April 2016, the multi-skilled teams have performed high-visibility patrols at Geylang and enforced against a range of regulatory offences, including the supply of medicinal and health products without a valid licence, another area of concern raised by Ms Chia.
6. On Ms Chia's feedback about the illegal pasting of advertisements on lamp posts and other public properties, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforces against such activities. Anti-stick paint is applied on lamp-posts and other street infrastructures to make it more difficult for advertisements to be pasted on them. Advertisement boards are also installed at areas with high pedestrian traffic to allow advertisers to publicise their goods and services.
7. Our law enforcement agencies are committed to improving safety and security at Geylang, while retaining the vibrancy of the neighbourhood. We will continue to work with local community leaders and other agencies to maintain law and order in the area.