SINGAPORE: Overall crime in Singapore rose by 4 per cent last year, largely fuelled by an increase in online commercial crimes, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in its annual crime report on Friday (Feb 12).
A total of 33,608 cases were recorded last year, up from 32,315 cases in 2014. Online commercial crimes saw a surge of 95 per cent to 3,759 cases, up from 1,929 cases in 2014.
Almost all other types of crimes registered a decrease, the police said. Among them, violent or serious property crimes, and housebreaking and related crimes fell to a 20-year low, while theft and related crimes hit a 10-year low.
SPIKE IN ONLINE SCAMS
The number of commercial crimes surged 46.5 per cent to 8,329 cases, compared to 5,687 cases in 2014. Within this type of crime, online crimes saw the largest increase, the police said.
Cheating involving e-commerce rose 30.5 per cent to 2,173 cases last year, compared to 1,665 cases in 2014. The total sum cheated was about S$1.76 million, with the largest amount at approximately S$50,000.
Director of SPF's Commercial Affairs Department, David Chew, said: “The reality of this is that, in Singapore we're very connected. With the optic network that services most of the families in Singapore are on, we do our transactions socially and economically on the Internet round-the-clock.
“Online criminals use those networks to scam our locals who are comforted by the fact that we live in a safe society. But, we do not know who we are transacting with on the other end of the Internet. You could as well be transacting with a guy in Novena or Nigeria for all you know, because the quality of the signal is so good."
Online scams targeting buyers rose 30.1 per cent to 1,887 cases, up from 1,450 cases. The total sum cheated was about S$1.34 million. Scams targeting sellers also increased by 25.4 per cent to 153 cases from 122 cases. The total sum cheated was about S$120,000.
The number of people falling victim to credit-for-sex scams, where culprits use mobile messaging platforms to ask victims to purchase gift cards or virtual credit in exchange for sexual services, surged to 1,203 cases compared to 66 cases in 2014. The total sum cheated was about S$2.9 million, with the largest amount at S$74,000.
There was also a spike in cases related to the Internet love scam, with 383 cases reported compared to 198 the previous year. The total amount cheated was about S$12 million, with the largest amount at S$528,000.
“As online fraud transcends national boundaries, the police have been working closely with foreign law enforcement agencies to take action against overseas syndicates,” said Mr Chew added.
The police will also investigate and prosecute Singaporeans and residents found to be involved in online scams or helping foreign syndicates in criminal activities, he said, adding that public education efforts will be intensified to raise awareness of online scams.
Most notably, the police had conducted an eight-month joint investigation with Chinese authorities in 2015, to apprehend a fraud syndicate targeting Singaporeans. They had received 627 reports on credit-for-sex scams, totalling about S$1.6 million. The culprits operated from call centres in China and abused social media platforms for their gains. A total of 43 people were arrested.
FALL IN OTHER TYPES OF CRIME
Fewer crimes of other categories were committed last year, according to the police’s statistics. Violent or serious property crimes fell by 44.1 per cent, while housebreaking and related crimes fell by 7.5 per cent – 20-year lows for both types of crime.
Thefts of motor vehicles and parts also hit a 20-year low, due to the growing popularity of in-vehicle cameras, the police said. The number of cases fell 6.4 per cent from 1,642 cases in 2014 to 1,537 cases in 2015.
Cyber extortion cases also fell, plunging 66.1 per cent from 257 cases in 2014 to 87 last year.
The number of cases related to unlicensed moneylending harassment fell by 26.6 per cent to 4,229 – a 10-year low. Compared to 2009 when the unlicensed moneylending situation was at its peak, this represented a decline of 76.4 per cent, or 13,654 cases, the police said.
SPF attributed the decline to two “significant measures”: An extensive network of police cameras in HDB blocks, called PolCams, that has increased police presence and deterred would-be criminals, and neighbourhood watch groups such as the Citizens on Patrol scheme.
“The installation of PolCams at HDB void decks and multi-storey carparks has helped to deter and provide investigative leads for unlicensed moneylending cases. Footage from these PolCams has led to the arrests of unlicensed moneylending harassers in 360 cases since 2012,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee.