Harsher fines for high-rise litterbugs likely

Existing penalties for high-rise littering will probably need to be reviewed and the fines imposed "significantly raised", said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, yesterday.

Such fines currently range from $800 to $1,500.

Calling high-rise littering a "dangerous anti-social act", Dr Balakrishnan said he was "not satisfied" with the situation, noting that about 8,000 complaints of high-rise littering are received annually, but only a few cases - about 10 to 12 a year - are taken to court.

He said that 12 suspects who engaged in high-rise littering have been identified - and five of them prosecuted - since the use of surveillance cameras to catch such litterbugs was piloted in 2011. But he stressed that surveillance cameras "should be used only as a last resort".

"This cat-and-mouse game cannot be the real solution," he said.

"We need more effective assumption of personal responsibility, and we need local action on the ground by people who are actually living there and who know who the culprits are."

Dr Balakrishnan said it is important to adopt personal responsibility and cultivate proper social norms within neighbourhoods. These should "remain the primary line of defence" when it comes to fighting high-rise littering, he said.

Dr Balakrishnan added that the National Environment Agency will continue to work closely with residents and town councils to deal with such acts.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC, asked if DNA technology could be used to catch perpetrators who throw litter such as sanitary pads.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while it was technically possible, it would also mean a new level of "intrusive surveillance", with a DNA database on all residents needed.

tsjwoo@sph.com.sg


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