SINGAPORE: Riders on Watch (ROW), an initiative tapping Singapore's large community of commuters to be first responders to potential threats on public transport, was launched on Tuesday (Jul 2).
As part of the scheme, volunteers can sign up to be part of a team of commuters tasked with keeping a lookout for suspicious characters or items, and alerting the police for follow-up.
These riders will receive information on the latest crime trends, as well as real-time SMS alerts on "persons of interest", said Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Mr Amrin Amin.
Announcing the initiative at the Public Transport Security Command's (Transcom) Public Spiritedness Award ceremony, Mr Amrin said: “Public transport ridership is expected to grow further with the addition of more train lines and bus routes in the coming years.
"The large ridership will make our public transport system an even more attractive target for terror and crime."
Mr Amrin said that when a crime is committed, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will disseminate - via SMS or Whatsapp - information such as a suspect's possible whereabouts and appearance, as well as CCTV footage.
The information can be shared with family, friends and neighbours to create "a more informed community", he added.
“The police cannot be everywhere, and to look at it, the police have been successful in partnering with the community to fight crime. So we thought that Transcom, being the sub-unit to the police, should try to do something that is similar, tapping on community volunteerism to help us fight crime, to be our eyes and ears,” said Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Police Koh Wei Keong, who commands Transcom.
ROW draws inspiration from a similar scheme undertaken by the British Transport Police called Project Servator, and hopes to achieve at least 3,000 sign-ups by the end of the year.
Members of the public may sign up on the SPF website or approach Transcom officers on patrol at MRT stations and bus interchanges.
Those who want to contribute more and patrol with police may also consider volunteering for other schemes such as Citizens on Patrol and the Volunteer Special Constabulary.
ROW recruits will each receive a limited edition EZ-Link card.
One recruit, 35-year-old Paul Yoke Teow, hailed the scheme as a good move.
“It's very natural for me to step out and help ... (when I see something) incorrect," said Mr Teow, who was one of several riders who received a Public Spiritedness Award on Tuesday, after he helped authorities apprehend a perpetrator in an outrage of modesty case at Hillview MRT station in March.
"I have friends who have been molested and (when) asked why they didn't do anything, they said they were scared of what the other party would do to them. This can happen to anyone, including my family members and if it were to happen to them, I’d also want someone to help," said Mr Teow.
Riders on Watch also acts as a warning to potential offenders, said AC Koh.
"We're hoping that the scheme, besides (engaging) volunteers (as) our eyes and ears, will be a deterrence to would-be perpetrators," he said.