Lack of resources by Singapore Police to tackle increase in foreign workers

By Tiffany Gwee

According to Commissioner of Police, Ng Joo Hee, in Tuesday’s Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearing, the Police lack the resources to tackle the increase in population and the potential increase in crime that might result from it.

During the hearing, COI Chairman, GP Selvam, emphasised the importance of addressing the issue regarding the rising number of foreign workers and its potential problems that come along with it. He said that having “large crowds of foreign workers” might end up in a clash of interests that might escalate into something more serious.

Asking if the Mr Ng is aware of the bust-up which occurred in Little India last March involving a group of 40 -50 foreign workers of two rival gangs, Mr Ng replied that he is aware of the incident. Mr Selvam said that most of the public offences are by non-indigenous individuals and that the trend of growing numbers of foreign workers is a serious concern for the country.

“This is what we are worried about,” Selvam said.

While Mr Ng said that he understood Selvam’s concerns and worrries, he said the fact is that there simply is “not enough resources” to help the police force tackle the challenges at hand.

“To have a truly visible police presence,” he said, “we will require 100-150 police officers in each locality. We do not have these numbers.”

Low police to citizens ratio

There are currently 8,784 regular police officers and 3,688 National Service Full-Time Policemen (PNSF) in Singapore. Statistically then, it is 1 police for every 614 citizens – an extremely low ratio compared to other cities and countries.

Mr Ng gave the example of Hong Kong which has 28,261 police officers with a population of 7.1 million residents. This gives a ratio of 1 policeman to 252 citizens. In other cities such as London, Mr Ng said, there is “2 to 3 times more police per resident compared to Singapore.”

In another example, Mr Ng revealed that in Bedok – where approximately a million people reside – there are only 1,000 police officers. With officers working shifts, the ratio becomes 1 policeman to every 4,000 citizens.

Low growth but still efficient

Given that the population has increased by 58 per cent in recent years, the rise in the number of police officers, which Mr Ng said was 16 per cent, is not sufficient to cope with the wider responsibilities the force faces.

However, despite the small number of police officers here in Singapore, Mr Ng commended the efficiency of the police. “We still deliver outcomes that are the envy of the world,” he said.

Still, he warned against taking the “safety and security for granted” and to assume that such a state of peace is the “natural state of affairs”.