Singapore's crime rate up in 2020 amid rise in scam cases

Singapore's crime rate up in 2020 amid rise in scam cases

Woman using a mobile phone while looking at a computer screen
File photo of someone using a phone and looking at a computer.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday (Feb 2) said Singapore's overall crime rate rose last year due to a rise in scam cases, although physical crimes such as housebreaking fell.

In an overview of Singapore's safety and security situation in 2020, MHA said online scams saw a "significant increase". 

It attributed the increase to more Singaporeans staying home because of the COVID-19 situation and carrying out more activities and transactions online. 

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. 

READ: Fake gambling platform scam cases up by 18 times, investment scams more than double

READ: Commentary: The year hackers and scammers exploited our COVID-19 fears to cheat us

Social media impersonation scams and phishing scams also saw significant increases, while loan scam cases also rose. 

However, the number of physical crimes fell, such as housebreaking and theft-related crimes, as well as outrage of modesty cases. 

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

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

RECIDIVISM RATE REMAINS LOW, FALL IN NUMBER OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS

Overall recidivism rate among ex-offenders remained low and stable, decreasing slightly in 2020, said MHA. 

As part of its "step down" approach to facilitate offenders reintegrating into the community after their release from prison, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) allowed more offenders to undergo rehabilitation in the community while still being supervised. 

READ: Repeat offender determined to be a good dad after jail term made him miss daughter's birth

MHA said it also saw a fall in traffic accidents resulting in fatalities, as well as 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," said the ministry. 

Border closures and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic also meant that there was a decrease in the number of immigration offenders arrested and contraband cases detected.

The number of non-emergency and false alarm calls for the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) emergency medical services also fell, as well as fires in residential premises. 

GLOBAL AND REGIONAL DRUG SITUATION REMAINS A CHALLENGE

In its overview, MHA noted that there were strong calls in support of liberal drug policies on the international front, saying this could undermine Singapore’s zero-tolerance stance.

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, it said.

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MHA said while there was a decrease in the overall number of drug abusers arrested, the Central Narcotics Bureau (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 last year. 

ONLINE RADICALISATION A "KEY CONCERN"

Online radicalisation also 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, said MHA. 

Last year, the Internal Security Department (ISD) detected a number of self-radicalised Singaporeans and foreigners, with the most recent case involving a 16-year-old boy who was detained in December

The boy had planned to attack Muslims at two local mosques on the anniversary of New Zealand's Christchurch attacks. 

READ: Religious groups asked to be more vigilant after teenager planned mosque attacks: Shanmugam

MHA also said that 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 Sep 1, 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," said MHA. 

Other trends of concerns include increases in the number of cyber-extortion cases, fires involving power-assisted bicycles, speeding-related accidents, as well as fatal drink-driving accidents. 

The ministry said the SGSecure movement managed to sustain momentum, despite restrictions on large-group gatherings and events due to the pandemic. 

New programmes and training sessions were conducted online to equip residents with emergency preparedness skills.

The public were also educated 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, said MHA. 

HOME TEAM'S CONTRIBUTION TO SINGAPORE'S COVID-19 RESPONSE

Due to the pandemic, many Home Team officers took on additional roles and responsibilities last  year to safeguard public health and safety, said the ministry. 

More than 7,300 police officers were deployed for COVID-19 related operations, including at government quarantine facilities, and for ground patrols and enforcement. 

Police officers and CNB also supported the Ministry of Health (MOH) with contact tracing and epidemiological investigations. 

Meanwhile, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), which manages the stay-home notice framework, issued more than 280,000 stay-home notices in 2020. 

More than 16,000 electronic tamper-proof wristbands were also issued by ICA. 

READ: More than 360 COVID-19 stay-home notice breaches and 130 quarantine order violations so far: MHA

ICA also helped to ensure the continued flow of essential goods and cargo into Singapore, said MHA. 

The authority saw a surge in the volume of low value goods, less than S$400, entering the country, as more people made more overseas online purchases during this period. 

SCDF emergency medical services personnel were also at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking suspected COVID-19 cases to the hospitals. Around 1,400 of such personnel took part in these operations as of Dec 31, 2020. 

About 1,100 SCDF officers were also deployed in additional roles, said MHA. These included swabbing operations at government quarantine facilities, conducting training on the donning of personal protective equipment, as well as training personnel at temporary migrant worker dormitories to meet Company Emergency Response Teams (CERT) requirements. 

On the Singapore Prison Service front, officers also implemented safety measures, including cohort segregation and conducting swab tests for new inmate admissions, to ensure the safety of well-being of inmates and staff.

In 2020, about 16,500 swab tests were conducted in total. 

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The Singapore Prison Service also worked with the Supreme Court, State Courts and Family Justice Courts to conduct more than 4,700 virtual hearings via Zoom, said MHA. 

Meanwhile, the Yellow Ribbon Singapore assisted 690 inmates secure jobs prior to their release via virtual interviews. 

About 1,100 officers from the various Home Team agencies were also mobilised to support the Joint Task Force (JTF) to ensure that the daily needs of the migrant workers in Singapore were met during the pandemic. 

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

Source: CNA/lk

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