SINGAPORE: MRT station employees are not trained to chase after nor apprehend people, and the protocol is for them to call for help in the event of incidents such as molestation, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary on Tuesday (Oct 2).
Dr Puthucheary's comments were made in response to a parliamentary question from NCMP Daniel Goh, who had enquired about the molest case at Serangoon MRT station last month, and if incidences of molestation on MRT premises are treated as high priority for staff intervention.
A 23-year-old man was arrested last month for allegedly molesting a woman at Serangoon MRT station twice - once while on the train and the other after she had alighted at the station.
In a widely-shared Facebook post, the woman who alleged she had been molested said she had alerted the control station “hoping someone would stop him … but people just stared and did nothing”.
As a result, the alleged perpetrator got away, she wrote.
Dr Puthucheary said on Tuesday that after they were informed of the incident, train station staff notified the SBS Transit Operations Control Centre (OCC) and the Public Transport Security Command of the Singapore Police Force (TransCom) was alerted immediately.
“Their swift actions enabled the police to subsequently arrest a male suspect. Investigations are ongoing," Dr Puthucheary said.
Assoc Prof Goh then asked if the staff protocol in such instances would involve giving chase or stopping the molester from escaping the scene of the crime.
“The protocol does not specifically instruct staff to give chase,” Dr Puthucheary replied.
“The first thing the staff have to do is inform the network of support structures we have such as OCC and TransCom in case more resources and assets are required to be deployed to the station … The staff have a duty to the station and a responsibility to the post as well,” he said.
Dr Puthucheary added that train station employees are also not trained to "handle violent criminals and chase down and apprehend people".
"There is the issue of course as to whether the perpetrator could become violent ... So they have to exercise some judgment on what intervention is appropriate for them," he said.
In Parliament, Assoc Prof Goh also noted that sensitivity is required in dealing with victims, who could be emotionally distressed during such circumstances.
To this, Dr Puthucheary said that employees are given a significant amount of customer service training, including on how to handle victims of molest.