Press Releases

Overview of Safety and Security Situation in 2020

Published: 02 February 2021

Singapore Remains Safe and Secure

1. In spite of the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Team remained steadfast in keeping Singapore safe and secure.

2. For the seventh consecutive year, Singapore was ranked first in the Gallup 2020 Global Law and Order Report[1], ahead of countries such as Iceland, Austria, Norway and Switzerland.

Key Trends of Improvement

3. The overall recidivism rate among ex-offenders remains low and stable, further decreasing slightly in 2020. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) allowed more offenders to undergo rehabilitation in the community while still being supervised, as part of its “step-down” approach[2] to facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the community after their release from prison.

4. We also saw decreases in the number of:

   a) Traffic accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries, and traffic accidents involving red-light running and drink-driving (this was partly due to the reduced traffic on the roads as a result of COVID-19 measures);

   b) Non-emergency and false alarm calls for the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) Emergency Medical Services (EMS);

   c) Fires in residential premises; and

   d) Immigration offenders arrested and contraband cases detected (due in large part to border closures and travel restrictions arising from the COVID-19 situation).

Increase in Scams

5. In 2020, there was an increase in the overall crime rate due to a rise in scam cases. In particular, online scams saw a significant increase with more Singaporeans staying at home due to the COVID-19 situation and carrying out many more activities and transactions online.

   a) E-commerce scams continued to rank first among the scam types in Singapore, with a significant number of cases reported during the Circuit Breaker period.

   b) There were also significant increases registered for social media impersonation scams and phishing scams.

   c) The number of reported loan scam cases also rose.

6. On the other hand, there was a decrease in physical crimes. For example, there was a decrease in the number of housebreaking and theft-related crimes, as well as outrage of modesty cases.

7. If we take scams out from the calculations, the crime rate saw a decrease in 2020.

Global and Regional Drug Situation Remains Challenging

8. On the international front, there continue to be strong calls in support of liberal drug policies. This could undermine Singapore’s zero-tolerance stance. At the same time, there have been indications of increased trafficking in methamphetamine within the region, which is of concern as methamphetamine has been the most commonly-abused drug in Singapore since 2015.

9. While there was a decrease in the overall number of drug abusers arrested, CNB continued to make significant drug seizures. The number of young abusers (below 30 years old) continued to make up a significant proportion of new drug abusers arrested in 2020.

Violent Extremist Ideologies Remain a Concern

10. Online radicalisation remains a key concern, and the COVID-19 situation has facilitated the further proliferation of terrorist and extremist propaganda due to Singaporeans spending more time online. In 2020, the Internal Security Department detected a number of self-radicalised Singaporeans and foreigners. The most recent case involved a 16-year-old youth who was detained in December 2020. He had plotted to attack Muslims at two local mosques on the anniversary of the New Zealand Christchurch attacks. In late 2020, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in France and other parts of the world arising from the re-publication of caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo on 1 September 2020, a number of individuals in Singapore were found to have made social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest. These cases underline the continued threat posed by hate speech and extremist ideologies, and the need to guard against them.

Other Trends of Concern

11. We are also concerned about increases in the number of:

   a) Cyber-extortion cases;

   b) Fires involving power-assisted bicycles;

   c) Speeding-related accidents; and

   d) Fatal drink-driving accidents.

SGSecure Movement Sustains Momentum

12. Despite the restrictions on large-group gatherings and events because of the COVID-19 situation, the SGSecure movement managed to sustain momentum. New programmes and training sessions were conducted online to equip residents with emergency preparedness skills, educate the public on issues of terrorism, extremism, and radicalisation, as well as facilitate inter-faith activities to promote religious harmony. More than 90,000 residents were engaged on emergency preparedness skills through these sessions while 8,000 residents participated in the inter-faith activities.

The Home Team’s Contribution to the National Response to COVID-19

13. On top of their regular duties, many Home Team officers took on additional roles and responsibilities to safeguard public health and safety in support of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

14. More than 7,300 Singapore Police Force (SPF) officers were deployed for COVID-19-related operations, including deployment at government quarantine facilities, and ground patrols and enforcement. Officers from SPF and the Central Narcotics Bureau also supported the Ministry of Health with contact tracing and in epidemiological investigations, contributing their investigative capabilities and expertise.

15. The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has been managing the Stay-Home Notice (SHN) framework, including the issuance and enforcement of SHNs. In 2020, ICA issued over 280,000 SHNs and more than 16,000 electronic tamper-proof wristbands[3]. ICA also helped ensure the continued flow of essential goods and cargo into Singapore, and saw a surge in the volume of low value goods (less than $400) entering Singapore, as more people made more overseas online purchases during this period.

16. SCDF EMS personnel, comprising paramedics and emergency medical technicians, have been at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, conveying suspected cases to the hospitals. As at 31 December 2020, around 1,400 such personnel have taken part in these operations. SCDF officers also contributed to the national effort in many other areas, including swabbing operations at government quarantine facilities, and conducting training on the donning of personal protective equipment (PPE)[4], and training for personnel at temporary migrant worker dormitories to meet Company Emergency Response Teams (CERT) requirements[5]. About 1,100 SCDF officers were deployed in these additional roles.

17. In order to ensure the safety and well-being of inmates and staff, SPS proactively implemented safety measures, including cohort segregation measures and conducting swab tests for new inmate admissions. About 16,500 swab tests were conducted in total in 2020. SPS worked with the Supreme Court, State Courts and Family Justice Courts to conduct over 4,700 virtual hearings via Zoom to minimise physical contact and the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Yellow Ribbon Singapore successfully assisted 690 inmates to secure jobs prior to their release via virtual interviews amidst the COVID-19 situation.

18. Around 1,100 officers from the various Home Team agencies were mobilised to support the Joint Task Force (JTF)[6] to ensure that the daily needs of migrant workers in Singapore were met during the pandemic. Officers were deployed in operations and planning teams at the JTF Headquarters, as well as part of Forward Assurance Support Teams (FAST) deployed to migrant worker dormitories and temporary quarters.

19. The Home Team remains committed to keeping Singapore safe and secure, and supporting the national response to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

[1] The 2020 Law and Order Report involved face-to-face or telephone interviews conducted by Gallup with nearly 175,000 people aged 15 and older, in 144 countries and areas in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked four questions to gauge their sense of security and experience with crime and law enforcement.

[2] The “step-down” approach involves offenders undergoing Community Corrections, such as those emplaced on Community-Based Programmes, which entails serving the tail-end of their sentence in the community under SPS’s supervision. This allows offenders to reintegrate back into society and experiencing the attendant pressures, while still receiving structured support from SPS and its community partners.

[3] The electronic tamper-proof wristbands help to enhance the efficiency of the surveillance of individuals on Stay-Home Notice as well as to minimise the need for house visits which helps to reduce the risk of community transmission.

[4] SCDF conducted mask fitting and PPE training for Grab and SMRT drivers who had volunteered to ferry suspected COVID-19 passengers arriving at Changi Airport, drivers who were operating converted SMRT transporters for migrant workers who were potential COVID-19 cases, and staff of over 40 premises which had been converted to migrant worker decanting sites. As at 30 November 2020, more than 3,000 personnel had been trained.

[5] SCDF provided customised training for in-situ personnel such as dormitory operators and security staff at the Temporary Migrant Worker Dormitories to meet CERT requirements for the converted facilities. This includes conducting evacuation and mitigating incipient fires in an emergency. A total of 71 training sessions were conducted.

[6] The inter-agency Joint Task Force was set up to provide assurance and care for migrant workers, and to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the dormitories.