Mr Ng Joo Hee
Distinguished Guests and Officers of the Singapore Police Force
It is a pleasure to be with you at this year’s SPF workplan seminar.
2 This year’s seminar is organised around the theme “A Force for the Nation”. Indeed, the safety and security we enjoy in Singapore forms the bedrock of our continued national success. The SPF has over the years evolved into a highly professional force, keeping crime under control and establishing a strong relationship of trust with the public.
3 For the year 2010, the crime rate was 650 cases per 100,000 population – down from 660 in 2009, and the second lowest in the past 20 years. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, the SPF moved up a notch from 3rd to 2nd out of 139 economies for “Reliability of Police Services” .
4 These are encouraging achievements. However, we cannot take them for granted. Episodes of violence last year at Downtown East and in Bukit Panjang remind us that both the Police and the public need to remain vigilant and engaged. All stakeholders - parents, family members, teachers and friends – need to work with the police to pre-empt such episodes from recurring.
Changing Operating Environment
5 The good results achieved belie shifting patterns of crime and criminality within our society. I would like to highlight three areas which the Police needs to pay particular attention to over the next year. First, loansharks continue to threaten the security of our neighbourhoods. They target HDB units indiscriminately without regard to the safety of those within. Their harassment tactics have become bolder over time, including setting fire to property and also vandalising cars.
6 Last year, we strengthened the legislative framework for dealing with loansharks, including increasing penalties and enhancing the power of the police to freeze the assets of those detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. Although we have succeeded in dismantling more loansharking syndicates and arresting more harassers, residents on the ground are still very concerned, and we need to send a strong signal to loansharks that we will not allow their blatant acts to spread unease in our neighbourhoods.
7 Second, over the past year, commercial crime, which includes rental scams and other types of fraudulent practices, went up by 13%. The police need to continue with its proactive education efforts, especially to the more vulnerable segments of our society.
8 The third area is the cyber domain. Around the globe, governments are increasingly concerned about the potential harm that can be caused through weaknesses in the security of our IT systems. A comprehensive plan is required to ensure that government, businesses and individuals take appropriate steps to locate and address vulnerabilities to cyber-crime.
Investing in Technology & Building New Capabilities
9 A common thread running through these three areas of concern is the fact that criminals are increasingly exploiting modern technologies and finding new modus operandi to carry out their crimes. For example, trans-national syndicates use the internet to direct activities across borders, making detection and apprehension much more difficult. The internet can also be used to hide large amounts of money flows across jurisdictions, allowing ill-gotten gains to be more easily accessed by wrongdoers.
10 The Police must correspondingly increase its investments in technology and build new capabilities. I would like to challenge you to consider how we can leverage more on technology across the entire spectrum of police services, from front-line applications to back-end forensics, to aid in deterring and solving crime, in investigations and prosecution.
11 In this respect, the opening of the INTERPOL Global Complex (IGC) in 2013 will significantly transform the safety and security landscape of Singapore. The IGC will drive research into new generation global policing services, thereby attracting global investments in security R&D. This will provide the SPF with the opportunity to collaborate with a much broader and deeper pool of international security experts.
12 The SPF also needs to upgrade the skills of its officers, and widen the collective knowledge base. In this regard, I am pleased to note that the Police will be expanding their current School of Criminal Investigation (SCI). The new SCI will over time provide comprehensive investigation training across all HT departments, from basic investigator training to specialized courses catering to a range of diverse investigation and forensic needs. This will facilitate networking and peer-learning across the Home Team, and develop officers who are equipped with skills relevant to the current operating environment.
Engaging the Community
13 In building up the SPF to meet future challenges, we must also bear in mind that the profile of our population is changing. The SPF has over the past few years expanded its outreach programme, using new media and other platforms to reach out to the more IT savvy segment of the population. Later on, we will be given a preview of the Police@SG iPhone application which will give members of the public up-to-date access to crime alerts and crime prevention advisories on the move. The interactive nature of this medium will allow them to immediately share such useful information with others through social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter.
14 Increasing the channels of communication will allow us to better engage today’s more diverse population who have different needs and expectations. However, this also means that our officers will be expected to deal with a wider range of issues than in the past. We have been seeing this already over the last few years.
15 I am mindful that at times our ground resources are stretched, but we need to remain fully engaged in the community. The one thing that must be preserved, and indeed deepened, is the consistently strong relationship of public trust and support for the Police that we have benefited from all these years. The SPF needs to find ways to leverage on this trust and goodwill to facilitate community solutions to community problems, rather than trying to be the arbiters of all manner of neighbourhood disputes on the ground. For this, we will need the assistance of our many stakeholders, many of whom are represented here today, who have worked so constructively with us over the years. This will take time and require the commitment of community stakeholders, but I am confident that we will be able to find a healthy and sustainable balance, which will make police officers more effective, and their jobs more rewarding.
16 MHQ will continue to support the police with sufficient human and infrastructure resources. In this regard, MHA announced earlier this year that we will be establishing a new Police Land Division Headquarters in Woodlands New Town. Two Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs) will also be built in Marsiling and Punggol by 2015 to cater to the increase in population in these areas. These NPCs will be augmented by additional manpower, which will ensure that there will be adequate police resources.
17 Let me conclude by saying that the SPF must remain a progressive, forward-looking force. Changing behaviours, norms and expectations in the complex environment the police operate in will require new and expanded professional and specialist capabilities as, well as innovations in the nature of policing itself. Even as you attend to the many pressing duties you have on a day-to-day continuing basis, your HQ and the Ministry HQ are looking ahead to ensure that you have the means – resources, equipment, science and technology support, legal framework, superior concepts, doctrine, tactics and techniques to do your work well, now, and in the future. I am confident that our officers will rise to meet the challenges ahead, as they have done so many times in the past.
18 I look forward to meeting more of you in coming weeks and months, and to working with you to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe and secure.
19. I wish all of you a fruitful workplan seminar.