Police Commissioner says Geylang had more rioting, assault and affray cases last year
Geylang poses "a clear and present danger to public order", more so than Little India, said Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee.
Crime rates in Geylang are high, unsavoury characters abound and there is "a hint of lawlessness" and hostility against the police.
All of which make Geylang "a potential powder keg", said the police chief.
Mr Ng was speaking as a witness on Day 23 of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings into the Little India riot at the State Courts on tuesday.
In his testimony, he presented a report covering several issues that have surfaced in the wake of the riot, such as the actions of the first responders and tactical troops, liquor licensing in Little India and the strategies and challenges faced by the police.
But the topic of Geylang was high on Mr Ng's agenda.
"Today, despite the riot in Little India, I worry more for Geylang than about Serangoon Road," he said.
Last year, there were 49 cases of rioting, assault and affray in Geylang, compared to 25 in Little India.
"Most worrying about Geylang is that there is an overt hostility and antagonism towards the police," he said.
On one recent occasion, a police officer was beaten up while detaining a gambling store operator. Reinforcements arrived quickly, preventing the capture of the officer or his weapon.
A police car parked in Geylang was also vandalised and had its windscreen smashed in. The case is still unsolved.
He said: "All in all, Geylang presents an ecosystem which is complex, which is tinged with a certain criminal undertone."
In contrast to Geylang, data gathered by the police do not present Little India to be riskier than other areas of congregation.
This was why the riot caught the police by surprise, as it "lay outside the realm of our regular expectation", said Mr Ng. Because of this expectation, police have allocated more resources to Geylang than Little India.
For example, last year, there were 41 anti-crime patrols by troopers from Special Operations Command in Geylang, while Little India had only 16.
Said Mr Ng: "There is nowhere else in Singapore which is more policed or policed more intensely than the 20-odd lorongs on either side of Geylang Road."