Anti-molest volunteers to patrol MRT stations in Singapore

Anti-molest volunteers to patrol MRT stations in Singapore
Volunteers handing out fliers at Queenstown MRT station during the pilot run on Aug 13.
PHOTO: The New Paper

The increase in outrage of modesty (OM) cases on public transport has prompted the police to launch a pilot plan for volunteers to patrol train stations to deter molesters.

The volunteers are from the community programme Citizens on Patrol (COP), who patrol parks and void decks.

Usually working in groups of seven, they will now help the police look out for suspicious behaviour at train stations and hand out crime prevention pamphlets to raise awareness of OM cases on public transport.

There were 105 molestation cases on public transport in the first half of this year, a 43.8 per cent rise from the 73 in the same period last year, according to the police's mid-year crime statistics released yesterday.

The percentage increase is more than double the 21.5 per cent rise in the total number of OM cases - 832 in the first half of this year, up from 685 in the same period last year.

Overall, a total of 16,460 crimes were reported from January to June this year, a 3.2 per cent increase from the 15,949 in the same period last year.

The increase is largely due to e-commerce scams, loan scams, and impersonation scams, which shot up by 72.8 per cent to 1,823 cases in the first half of this year from 1,055 cases in the same period last year.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Florence Chua said: "The community has an important role to play in fighting crime. Members of public are urged to stay vigilant against crimes and to report perpetrators to the police."

The director of operations, Senior Assistant Commissioner How Kwang Hwee, said the police are closely monitoring the rise in OM cases.

"We will continue to step up our efforts to work closely with stakeholders and the community to prevent and deter such cases, especially in public entertainment nightspots and public transport networks," he said.

"Offenders will be dealt with severely in accordance with the law."

A pilot run of the volunteer patrols was held on Aug 13 by a COP group from Queenstown's Mei Ling Zone Residential Committee. The police plan to involve more than 700 COP groups islandwide to patrol the MRT stations once a month.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Mr Terence Lim, 43, who has been on the COP team for three years and took part in the Queenstown pilot, said: "We want to show that there are residents taking responsibility and assisting the police in keeping our community safe.

"For example, we will tell commuters that if they encounter a molester, they should raise it to someone with authority. If they are inside the train, they can use the intercom to alert the MRT staff."

Having volunteers patrolling in COP vests can also act as a deterrent to would-be molesters, he added.

The police will also be boosting anti-molestation efforts at nightclubs after a 37 per cent rise in OM cases to 63 in the first half of this year from 46 in the same period last year in public entertainment nightspots .

They will start a campaign to educate club-goers on how to protect themselves against such crimes.

Business development manager Soh Qiao Ying, 23, know what it is like to be targeted by a molester.

Seven years ago, when she was just 16, a man followed her from Yew Tee MRT station to her block where he touched her inappropriately in a lift.

"I was stunned and in shock," said Miss Soh, who was a finalist The New Paper New Face last year and is in the finals of Miss Universe Singapore this year.

She had stepped out of the lift by then, but, refusing to be a victim, she "turned around and screamed very loudly".

Her family heard her and called the police, who later caught the molester.

After the incident, Miss Soh took precautions to protect herself. On public transport, she would be wary and move away if a man got too close to her. She also avoided getting into the lift with strangers.

"When I went clubbing, I would go with a big group of friends," she said.

Welcoming the introduction of anti-molest patrols, Miss Soh said: "I think some victims suffer in silence because they do not know who to turn to for help.

"With more people assisting, victims will have more avenues to reach out for help."

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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