201 people were arrested in 2016 for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online, compared to only six people in 2014, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam.
Most of those arrested last year for online drug trading were male and between the ages of 20 to 39 years old. Chinese and Malays made up about 50 percent and 30 percent respectively, Mr Shanmugam said in response to the question of Mr Denis Tan in a written answer.
Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Dennis Tan had asked in Parliament yesterday (2 Mar), for a breakdown on demographics of those caught for online drug peddling, and the reasons for the spike in the number of cases to the Minister for Home Affairs.
No data was available on their individual or family income, the minister informed.
Mr Shanmugam said, “The increase in the online drug trade is a direct result of the increasing use of the Internet. More people have taken to the Internet for shopping and other transactions. It is not surprising that drug buyers and suppliers are also moving online,” he said.
The Internet also provides a ‘cloak of anonymity’, and therefore gives a perceived sense of safety.
The anonymity provided by the Internet is proving to be a challenge for law enforcement agencies globally. Mr Shanmugam said, “The Internet allows buyers to purchase their drugs without physically meeting with the suppliers. The buyers and suppliers may think that in this way, they can better evade detection by law enforcement agencies.”
The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is tackling this problem by working closely with partners such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and courier companies to detect and take action against the online drug trade.
The CNB is also working with the media to publish the trends and dangers of people ordering drugs and drug paraphernalia online, as part of public education efforts.
“CNB will continue to monitor the developments closely and keep up its enforcement and public education efforts,” Mr Shanmugam said.
He added that the bureau also conducts online outreach efforts to engage persons who may be vulnerable to the effects of the online drug trade.
CNB released its statistics last month, showing a slight increase in the number of new drug abusers arrested. 1,347 new drug abusers were caught last year, which marks an increase of 3 percent from 1,309 in 2015.
But overall, the number of drug abusers that were arrested decrease 3 percent to 3,245 last year, from 3,343 in 2015.
Close to two-thirds of new abusers who have been arrested were under 30 years old.