Singapore’s overall crime rate at 9-year high in 2019; scam cases rose 54%

Singapore’s overall crime rate at 9-year high in 2019; scam cases rose 54%

Around one in four crimes last year were scam-related, with the number of such crimes increasing by more than 50 per cent over the previous year. In addition, the number of unlicensed moneylending-related harassment cases went up by 15 per cent. Ahmad Khan and Ariel Lim take a closer look at the latest crime figures.

SINGAPORE: The total number of reported crimes in 2019 increased by 6.3 per cent to 35,209 cases, compared to 33,126 cases the year before, the police said on Wednesday (Feb 5).

This means Singapore’s overall crime rate climbed to 617 cases per 100,000 population, from 587 cases per 100,000 population in 2018. This is the highest since 2010, when the rate was 653 cases per 100,000 population.

The spike is primarily due to a “significant increase” in scam cases, police said after releasing its annual crime statistics.

A total of 9,502 scams were reported in 2019, a 53.5 per cent jump from 6,189 cases the previous year. Scams accounted for 27 per cent of crimes reported, up from 19 per cent in 2018, police said.

Nevertheless, police said four of six classes of crime decreased “significantly” in 2019: Crimes against persons, violent or serious property crimes, housebreaking and related crimes, and theft and related crimes.

If scam cases were excluded, police said the total number of reported crimes would have fallen by 4.6 per cent to 25,707 cases in 2019, from 26,937 cases in 2018.

The rise in scam cases is a continuing trend. Last August, police said that crime in the first half of 2019 had crept up mainly due to a rise in scam cases. Annual crime data also showed that crime in 2018 had increased by 1.4 per cent from 2017 because of a surge in scams.

READ: Crime up 7% in first half of 2019, mainly due to rise in scam cases - police

READ: Crime reports up in 2018 due to surge in scam cases: Police

Among the top 10 scam types, e-commerce scams, loan scams and credit-for-sex scams are of “particular concern”, police said, pointing out that they made up 60 per cent of the scams.

While the police said it has continued to educate the public on scams through online campaigns, roadshows and community volunteers, it stressed that family members can play a part by preventing “someone they know from falling victim to crime and prevent losses”.

crime classes 2019
How the five crime classes shifted in 2019. (Graphic: SPF)

National Crime Prevention Council chairman Gerald Singham said scammers can target people of any age.

"Some of our senior citizens, they may be less sceptical and less questioning when scammers call them," he said.

"So it will be very helpful - if a call comes in asking for personal particulars - they either put down the phone, or they're inclined to give some answers.

"At least speak to family members who have that sense of rationality, (so) they may not be put in a spot of panic or embarrassment at that point of time."

Notably on other fronts, the number of motor vehicle and related thefts, robbery, and snatch theft cases registered a 35-year low in 2019.

INCREASE IN UNLICENSED MONEYLENDING HARASSMENT

Meanwhile, the police revealed that unlicensed moneylending (UML)-related harassment cases increased by 15 per cent to 5,301 cases in 2019, from 4,608 cases the year before. There was also an increase of cases of harassment by electronic means, which accounted for the majority of the UML-related harassment cases.

READ: 'I don't know how to face my children': How one woman fell prey to 50 loan sharks

“To combat the rise of UML-related harassment, the police have been proactive in educating the public not to borrow from unlicensed moneylenders and advising them against any involvement in UML-related activities,” it said.

“However, the proliferation of new communication platforms and smartphones has made it easier for UML syndicates to conduct their harassment via electronic means and simultaneously target larger groups of people.”

The police said it will continue to increase public outreach efforts and work closely with relevant stakeholders, such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Ministry of Law’s Registry of Moneylenders, to disrupt UML syndicates using such tactics.

DECREASE IN OUTRAGE OF MODESTY CASES

The statistics also indicate a 5.6 per cent decrease in outrage of modesty (OM) cases, from 1,728 in 2018 to 1,632 in 2019. However, police said it remains a cause for concern due to the high number of reported cases.

While the number of OM cases in the public transport system and public entertainment outlets decreased, the number of OM cases in malls went up by 14.7 per cent to 125 in 2019, from 109 the previous year.

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Police said it will step up patrols in malls and work with stakeholders to deter this crime, as it advised the public to stay vigilant while in crowded places.

“Victims of molestation are advised to make a police report as soon as possible,” it added. “Reporting such crimes early is crucial in helping the police identify and arrest the perpetrators.”

Source: CNA/jt

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