SINGAPORE - Step into some parts of Geylang and you might think that you have just stepped into the set of a gangster movie.
Many of its lorongs are a hotbed of vice and crime.
Streetwalkers openly parade in tight clothes despite the presence of surveillance cameras.
Nearby, motorcyclists flash their bike lights, a signal that they are interested in buying contraband cigarettes. The transactions are done within a minute. The sellers enjoy brisk business.
Other vices that are part of the landscape of Geylang: Sale of illegal drugs such as codeine and sex pills, and gambling dens.
All these, of course, are not new to Geylang.
What is new is the brazen way the purveyors of these vices ply their trade, with those in the flesh trade even employing foreigners to be lookouts, runners and to "promote" the women to potential customers. What is new is the extent of violence that some of them would resort to in order to escape arrest or to protect their turf.
As Mr Lawrence Koh, the managing director of SK Investigation Services, puts it, this is not the Geylang he used to know.
He said of the crooks in the red-light district: "They are using more foreign workers to commit crimes for them, like running gambling dens, pushing prostitutes and selling drugs. It's all about making as much money as possible."
Geylang came into stark focus on Tuesday when Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee spoke about its crime rate, unsavoury characters, "hint of lawlessness" and the hostility against the police.
Testifying at the Committee of Inquiry (COI) hearings into the Little India riot, he warned that Geylang poses "a clear and present danger to public order".
It seems like attempts to clean up Geylang is an uphill battle. Clean up some areas and the illegal activities will just move somewhere else.
Observers said that many of these activities have moved inwards into the lorongs and backlanes away from the main thoroughfare of Geylang Road.
What is most obvious, visually at least, is the number of streetwalkers in recent years, especially in areas like Lorong 12, Jalan Suka or Talma Road.
Some observers say this is because of the increase in foreign prostitutes over the past 10 years.
Before that, the streetwalkers were mainly Indonesian, Thai and South Indian. Some time after 2004, others joined their ranks, in particular the Vietnamese and Chinese nationals.
Mr Syamsul Rumangkang, head of the Anti-Trafficking Agency in Batam, told The New Paper that more Indonesian women are working as prostitutes in Singapore in the last three years.
"Indonesian women still believe that they can make good money in Geylang. We see hundreds every month heading to Singapore from Batam after being recruited by Singapore pimps," he said.
"Some are tricked into thinking they are going there for other jobs but end up working as prostitutes in Geylang."