Cleaners roped in to help clear out loan sharks

Town council cleaners are being roped in to act as extra eyes and ears for the police in the fight against loan shark harassment.

Sixty in Sembawang's Canberra ward have been trained to be on the lookout as they go about their daily work, and alert the police if they spot anyone suspicious.

The "Clean Away The Sharks" scheme, officially launched yesterday by the ward's MP Lim Wee Kiak, could be expanded to other neighbourhoods in the future.

The cleaners, who each cover two blocks, have also been joining officers from Sembawang Neighbourhood Police Centre's citizen patrol groups since August.

"We know many residents' faces, so if outside people come in we can see," said Mr Sadek Abdul Gafur, 36, who has worked in the estate for nine years.

They have been trained to look out for activities such as people loitering around or using the stairs instead of the lift - even to go to higher floors, the Bangladeshi foreman added. In such cases, they would take note of the person's appearance and clothing and call the police.

Cleaner Mohammedin Saghir Ahmad, 54, said he has never seen anyone splashing paint - a well-known intimidation tactic - in his nine years working in the estate, but the visible after-effects used to be almost weekly sights up until two years ago.

"Many people were fed up and some were scared," he said. "We were also fed up because our people have to clean up. It's good that we can help the police to improve safety."

Dr Lim said the cleaners' efforts will complement the closed-circuit cameras installed in the blocks.

"(Loan shark harassment) implicates the whole neighbourhood because neighbours are disturbed," he said. "An additional pair of eyes, an additional pair of ears...will enhance the police efforts."

A separate Domestic Eyes On Alert programme was also launched yesterday in the Mayflower housing estate to get maids involved in crime prevention and detection efforts.

The scheme has been running in the Lentor estate since last year, and will be extended to other private housing estates under the Ang Mo Kio North Neighbourhood Police Centre.

Some 130 maids have been through training sessions so far.

Both programmes are overseen by Ang Mo Kio Police Division. The division's commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police Lian Ghim Hua, said: "Foreign domestic helpers and conservancy workers spend a lot of time in the neighbourhood every day.

"We believe that this partnership will help to deter crime and make our neighbourhoods safer."

This article was first published on Nov 30, 2014.
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