Fewer tickets issued for littering and smoking offences in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions: NEA

Fewer tickets issued for littering and smoking offences in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions: NEA

stock cigarette butts
File photo of cigarette butts.

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) issued about 36,900 tickets for littering and smoking offences last year, a dip from the 49,000 tickets for the same offences in 2019, said the agency in a release on Thursday (Feb 4).

It attributed the drop to the COVID-19 measures that had been implemented last year – such as the two-month “circuit breaker” period, which it said led to fewer tickets being issued for littering and smoking offences overall.

“With more people working from home, there were also less enforcement actions for littering offences in traditionally high footfall locations, such as transport nodes and congregation areas outside of malls or open fields,” NEA said.

Of the tickets issued last year, 18,500 were for smoking offences, and 18,400 were for littering.

READ: NEA received an average of more than 3,000 smoking complaints a month in 2020: Amy Khor

Though fewer tickets were issued overall, NEA added that more enforcement actions had been taken against smoking at prohibited areas in HDB estates and high-rise littering.

Around 1,090 tickets were issued last year for smoking in prohibited HDB areas, such as common corridors, staircases and lift lobbies - a 112 per cent increase from 2019, said NEA.

As for efforts against high-rise littering, the agency deployed surveillance cameras to more than 2,700 locations in 2020, a more than 50 per cent increase from the 1,700 in the previous year. 

READ: Punggol housing block residents plagued by sanitary pad litterbug

“As a result, in 2020, the number of high-rise littering acts captured increased by about 80 per cent,” said NEA.

NEA added that about 1,120 enforcement actions were taken against these high-rise litterbugs in 2020, though it noted that these figures are provisional, as there are still cases under investigation.

This is in line with previous years’ figures. From 2016 to 2019, the number of enforcement actions against high-rise litterbugs ranged between 1,100 and 1,500 yearly, Sustainability and Environment Minister Grace Fu had said last year.

These heightened enforcement efforts came after NEA adjusted its “enforcement posture and prioritised resources to focus on areas with higher feedback in 2020”, in response to “behavioural and work-life changes arising from COVID-19”.

Specifically, it noted that feedback for high-rise littering and smoking had risen year-on-year by 45 per cent and 25 per cent respectively, as more people were working from home.

READ: The Big Read - Singapore's high-rise littering problem - out of sight, out of mind

ABUSE AGAINST OFFICERS

NEA added that there were 90 cases where NEA enforcement officers encountered physical and/or verbal abuse while carrying out their duties – a more than 10 per cent increase from the 79 abuse cases in 2019.

More than 70 such cases last year took place when officers engaged smoking or littering offenders.

“NEA takes a serious view of those who verbally or physically abuse our officers and will not hesitate to take strong actions, which may result in criminal prosecution for possible offences,” it said.

"Cases of abuse are reported to the police, and we strongly urge members of the public to cooperate with our enforcement officers if approached."

TAKING A HOLISTIC APPROACH

The agency reiterated that it takes a holistic approach in tackling public health offences, including enforcement, advisory and education.

In October last year, it started a three-month trial where it deployed standees at public areas with “persistent littering feedback and enforcement carried out”, to deter people from committing littering offences.

The standees highlight the number of littering incidents detected in the area and enforcement actions taken. NEA said it now plans to roll these out islandwide.

These standees would complement existing measures and enforcement against these offences, it said.

It added that it has improved its work processes through data analytics to shorten the waiting time for camera deployment and surveillance – which also helps supplement enforcement by uniformed and non-uniformed officers.

But while deploying technology has helped allow NEA to “optimise (its) limited enforcement manpower”, it warned that it is not sustainable to deploy officers everywhere at all times.

“We can all do our part to help keep Singapore clean, by binning our litter and reminding smokers not to light up in prohibited places.

“Everyone has a part to play in upholding high standards of public health, and maintaining a clean, sustainable and liveable environment in Singapore,” it said.

Source: CNA/cl(ac)

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