THERE will soon be new help to deal with noise disputes - the No. 1 problem among neighbours.
A group of community wardens will be given the job to settle strife over noise.
Trained in basic law and mediation, they will have the power to take down particulars, advise people to keep it down and also help to deliver composition notices on behalf of the police.
They will be taught self-defence, be allowed to carry defensive equipment such as a baton to protect themselves, put on body-worn cameras and carry a special identification card.
The Police Force Act yesterday was amended to allow for the appointment of these wardens, or civilian police assistants as they are described by law.
These wardens will be first deployed in Tampines North and Boon Lay in a six-month pilot project to be launched in the second half of the year, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean.
Their effectiveness will then be reviewed before deciding on longer-term plans together with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Last year, a public consultation on how to better manage community disputes revealed that noise issues topped the list. More than 70,000 noise complaints were received every year by various agencies, including the Housing Board and police.
The introduction of wardens is part of a larger push, which includes the new Community Disputes Resolution Bill passed yesterday, to better deal with the tensions that are part of living in a densely populated city-state like Singapore.
DPM Teo told Parliament yesterday: "Why have we focused on noise? First of all, because it is currently an offence in extreme cases of noise.
"Second, noise constitutes a very large proportion of cases where police are called in for the community."
Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) wanted to know how these wardens will be picked. "For example, would there be a minimum age to ensure that a certain degree of maturity is there to deal with the public?"
She asked if volunteers would also be included.
DPM Teo said volunteers could be involved down the road, but the pilot will have only civilian officers employed by the police.
He also explained that while educational qualifications will be taken into account, the more important thing was for wardens to have "good people skills as they will be on the front line dealing with disputing neighbours".
The Police Force Act was also amended to create another group of civilian officers called forensic specialists who would assist in investigations. They would have the powers to secure and search crime scenes, seize evidence and take statements.
These specialists would also be allowed to carry batons and handcuffs to help in their duties.
Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) raised his concern on whether these civilian officers would "be given the same legal protection extended to police should anything happen to them while they are on duty".
DPM Teo assured him that they would be.
This article was first published on March 14, 2015.
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