Published: 17 February 2023
1. A very good afternoon to our representatives from the Retailer Industry Safety and Security Watch Group, or iSSWG. I am happy to meet all of you here today, and I commend your pledge to make the retail environment safe and secure for all of us.
2. Today marks the expansion of the Retailer iSSWG’s membership, and we warmly welcome our new partners, the Singapore Retailers Association and the Federation of Merchants Associations Singapore, into this iSSWG.
3. I am also heartened to see the strong support from representatives from the other iSSWGs here today, as a mark of the wider community we have built through our iSSWG efforts.
The Home Team Works With iSSWG Partners on Issues of Crime and Terrorism
4. Since 2008, eight iSSWGs have been established in the Chemical, Hotel, Financial, Manufacturing, Retail, Public entertainment, Online, and Logistical Transport industries. These iSSWGs enable the Home Team to work closely with industry stakeholders to address concerns around crime and to counter terrorism.
5. The Retailer iSSWG, just like all of our other partner iSSWGs, has been very supportive of SPF’s crime prevention initiatives, such as helping with the dissemination of crime prevention advisories during the Great Singapore Sale and year-end festive season period. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners supported SPF’s online outreach efforts by organising webinars that ensured that industry players were kept abreast of the latest crime and security threats, as well as licensing and regulation policies that affect them.
6. I am thankful that our partnership with the Retailer iSSWG has grown from strength to strength. Just last year, in December, SPF and the Retailer iSSWG held the Retailers Safety and Security Symposium at Mapletree Business City. The symposium was attended by 187 guests and was a useful platform for the sharing of best practices in preventing shop theft, and discussions on ways to strengthen retailers’ preparedness and response to security threats.
Twin Threats of Crime and Terrorism Today
7. As we emerge from the pandemic, economic and social activities have gradually resumed. With increased footfall in our shopping areas and malls, however, the potential for crime has also increased. Thus, while shop theft cases fell 26% from around 3,400 cases in 2019 to around 2,500 in 2020, that figure has risen by 22% from around 2,650 cases in 2021, to around 3,250 in 2022.
8. In addition, the retail industry has always been an attractive ‘soft target’ for terror attacks, given the high footfall and iconicity of shopping districts. I think we all know that just three months ago, an explosion tore through a crowded shopping street in Istanbul, Turkey, killing six and wounding 81. But such terrors do not only happen in bustling areas, and can also strike in familiar neighbourhoods. In May last year, an 18-year-old terrorist killed 10 people and wounded three others in a cold-blooded attack on a neighbourhood supermarket in Buffalo, New York. While we have avoided such tragedies in Singapore thus far, this peace and stability cannot be taken for granted.
Expand, Engage, Elevate the Retailer iSSWG
9. Overseas examples have shown us that crime and terrorism can occur anywhere in unexpected places, including in the heartlands. What more can we do to prevent this from ever happening in Singapore? Our strategy in tackling the twin threats of crime and terrorism can be summed up by three “E”s: Expand, Engage and Elevate.
10. First, the Retailer iSSWG will be expanding its membership beyond our close partners in the Orchard Road shopping belt. I am delighted to be here for the addition of new partners Singapore Retailers Association, or SRA, and Federation of Merchants Associations Singapore, or FMAS, who will add over 500 retailers to the Retailer iSSWG to the current 120 from the Orchard Road Business Association.
11. SRA’s partnership with the Home Team will be crucial in our efforts to engage retailers island-wide, through education and sharing of insights. FMAS’s addition is equally valuable, as it will help us to reach hawkers and hawker merchant associations. This will broaden our coverage of the heartlands.
12. The second “E” is Engage. We will continue our regular sharing of relevant crime and security advisories to the retailers represented by ORBA, SRA, and FMAS. Such sharing will facilitate increased cross-sharing of knowledge, experience and best practices between Government agencies and our expanded group of stakeholders.
13. We will also work with the industry to strengthen our deterrence measures and response plans. For example, SPF announced the expansion of the Shop Theft Awareness for Retailers programme, or STAR programme last year. STAR will be rolled out across all Neighbourhood Police Centres. Under STAR, SPF will work with retailers to analyse their risk factors and vulnerabilities to shop theft, and jointly identify effective crime prevention measures to be implemented. Such measures could include installing CCTVs for monitoring purposes, or keeping expensive items under lock and key. These efforts will lead to a safer and more secure shopping environment for our retailers and their customers.
14. We will also work with the iSSWG on the third “E”, Elevate, which is to bring our collaboration to greater heights. The spirit of our partnership stems from the shared belief that the industry best understands the unique challenges and solutions needed to tackle threats in the retail space. I would hence like to encourage the industry to take the lead in developing ground-up initiatives to address crime and prevent terrorism.
15. One possible area is the development of shared guidelines to address issues of crime and terrorism. These guidelines could include standard preventive measures, ensuring vigilance of retail staff, and development of emergency response plans. Such guidelines will provide industry members with a common standard to adopt and put in place to better protect their businesses, employees, and customers. Additionally, the Home Team can also work with industry members to stress-test emergency preparedness plans developed by yourselves. It is important to do so regularly, in order to ensure our collective response to terrorism remains robust.
Honouring Recipients of the Outstanding Community Partnership Awards
16. As we welcome new members to the iSSWG, we are also happy to recognise those who have gone the extra mile in preventing crime in the past year. The Outstanding Community Partnership Awards are given to organisations who have demonstrated proactiveness in bringing down the overall crime rate within their community. I am happy to share that we will be presenting 37 Awards to our partners today.
17. In particular, I would like to highlight two examples of how our retail partners have worked with the SPF:
a. First, NTUC FairPrice has strongly supported SPF’s crime prevention initiatives, as one of the first few retailers to join the STAR programme. NTUC FairPrice worked closely with Bukit Merah West Neighbourhood Police Centre to encourage their employees to adopt SPF’s A.S.K. protocol to deter potential shoplifters. What is the A.S.K. protocol? A – Ask the subject politely if they need help, to remind them of your presence; S – putting the Safety of the employee and customers first; and K – Keeping close to the subject to prevent them from shoplifting.
b. Second, Sheng Siong has displayed strong support for SPF’s crime prevention initiatives, such as prominently displaying SPF’s standees and adopting other crime prevention measures. Sheng Siong also partnered SPF’s Jurong Division to organise a competition incentivising their employees to adopt the A.S.K. protocol.
18. The above are just two examples of retailers’ invaluable contributions towards keeping the retail industry safe and secure. I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to all recipients for your stellar efforts in bringing down the crime rate in your communities.
19. As we welcome new partners into our midst, I am confident that we will further the good work done by the Retailer iSSWG. I look forward to strengthening the enduring relationship between the Home Team and the retail industry. Thank you once again for your strong support, and my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients today. Thank you.