As OneService reports against safe distancing offenders increase, some frontliners get assaulted

Enforcement Officer from the Land Transport Authority on a joint operation with NParks.
PHOTO: Facebook / Masagos Zulkifli

Snitching saves lives these days, we suppose, and the powers that be are more than happy that Singaporeans are playing their part in tattling on others who aren’t following the rules. 

In the days since the circuit breaker measures kicked in (only last week, but it feels like an eternity ago), not everyone is complying with the governmental directives. We need to flatten the curve, and yet, folks are still refusing to practise safe distancing and stay at home as much as possible during the global pandemic. 

Contrary to popular belief, the authorities don’t have eyes everywhere. As such, they’ve turned to crowdsourced surveillance with a new feature in government-developed municipal services app OneService that allows anyone to report on people violating safe distancing rules

As it turns out, folks do love snitching. According to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, there have been 700 of such reports within two days of launching the feature. 

Minister Fu, who also oversees the Municipal Services Office, spearheaded the development of the mobile app and launched it back in 2015 as a way for residents to report municipal issues such as pest problems and required maintenance for facilities in the neighbourhood. And with the new update, residents can submit pictures and location details of incidents where people aren’t social distancing for the authorities to follow up. 

Created within a day, the new feature might have also caused a big jump in user adoption rates for the app.

“Many more Singaporeans have downloaded the [OneService] App. We witnessed a multi-fold increase over the long weekend,” noted Fu. 

But just to be clear, the app is not to be used to report on specific individuals who aren’t complying with safe distancing measures — reports submitted will be used to identify hotspots of frequent gatherings, where resources need to be prioritised. 

Perhaps due to a large amount of tattling going on, Minister Fu advised users to be patient when encountering “intermittent delays” in OneService. 

With his National Parks Board and National Environment Agency officers having experienced a significant number of incidents involving circuit breaker non-compliances, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli applauded the app’s success. 

“Do remember to only send photos taken by yourself and not those forwarded to you or found online,” he mentioned. 

“This will help to ensure that the cases flagged are current and not already addressed by our officers.”

Unfortunately, some have resorted to violence when being confronted by his officers, noted Minister Masagos. 

“I was upset to learn that criminal force has been used against quite a number of our officers on the frontline,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday (April 15). 

“Today, an Enforcement Officer was slapped by a man who did not comply with safe distancing measures, and a Safe Distancing Ambassador was punched by an errant member of the public when advised to wear his mask properly.” 

The minister assured that the cases are being investigated by the police and reminded the public that the frontliners are simply doing their jobs to protect others from “the few who are putting everyone in danger”.

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