By Yasmeen Banu
On the 25th of March, the third week into the Committee of Inquiry for the Little India Riot, Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said that although the riot did happen in Little India, “there is no indication of law and order deteriorating” and that “public order crime is low and has been stable over the last five years.”
Mr Ng added that it was because of this that the riot came as a surprise.
Even with a hundred thousand Indians coming together at Little India on weekends, it does not make “Little India riskier than other areas of congregation.” Mr Ng said that South Asian workers are “normally not aggressive or confrontational”, and are “generally compliant and conforming.”
Policing measures however, have always been present within the area. There are three police patrol cars exclusive to Little India on Sundays and the Police Tactical Troops (PTT) for anti crimes patrol have beefed up 16 times since 2011.
As much as Mr Ng admitted that “crimes decreased in Little India faster than the rest of the country,” he does not share the same sentiment for Geylang. Mr Ng says he worries for Geylang as crime remains at a level that is concerning and that there are “disproportionate amount of police resources.”
Mr Ng presented two tables which document the number of crimes and public offences committed in various problematic spots in Singapore over the span of the last 6 years .
Number of crimes committed in areas of concern.
Number of public offences recorded in areas of concern.
It can be seen that Geylang has a comparable high crime and public offence incidents compared to other areas.
Although Mr Ng is not satisfied with the situation in both Geylang and Little India, the police force “can do a little more with current resources,” he said. However, he added that although in the long run this would eventually be unsustainable as police efforts in these two areas “stretch resources to near breaking point.”
Additionally, there are many crime hotspots such as red-light district areas and nightclubs in Geylang that “attract larger number of locals” and “budget local crooks like to congregate there.”
There have been regular large multi-agency raids in Geylang with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), National Environmental Agency (NEA), Health Science Authority (HSA), Customs and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). There were 22 such joint-operations over the last four years. There are also 24 uniformed officers on full patrol and another 24 in plainclothes doing rounds in bars and clubs.
The “hint of lawlessness in Geylang” remains a worry for the police force, making them pay a lot of attention to the area, he said.
Mr Ng also noted that even though public demands more police presence, police officers are a scarce and expensive resource, and with Singapore’s population growth of 58 percent over the years, it overtakes the less than 16 percent growth in the police force.