Engaging residents pays off for Ang Mo Kio police unit

SINGAPORE - Petty crimes such as theft and housebreaking used to be a problem in Singapore's largest police jurisdiction, Ang Mo Kio, with its more than 1.4 million residents.

But outreach programmes that teach residents how not to fall prey to such crimes have paid off, leading to a 61 per cent drop in these two crimes in the division. Overall, crime fell by 16 per cent, or by 916 cases last year compared with 2012.

The sterling results have helped the division win a top policing award, the Best Land Division award, for the second year running this year.

The unit used to be helmed by Assistant Commissioner Keok Tong San, who recently left the force.

Superintendent Leon Chan, 33, is now leading the 1,200 officers, who serve seven housing estates under the division's jurisdiction.

Supt Chan, who received the award on behalf of the division from Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran at the Home Team Academy last week, attributed the drop in overall crime in Ang Mo Kio to both teamwork and the "heartland" division's commitment to community engagement. Overall crime in Singapore fell by 4.3 per cent last year, compared with 2012.

With crime being less rampant now, it is hard to stop crimes as they are being committed, said Supt Chan, adding that crime in Singapore reached a 30-year low last year, according to latest police statistics.

"So, we are investing a lot more into helping people to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime," he added.

To that end, the division launched targeted engagement programmes for youth, foreign workers and the elderly.

One programme, specially targeted at shopping malls within the division's jurisdiction, was also launched late last year.

Besides a sharp reduction in housebreaking and theft cases, motor vehicle theft fell 45 per cent and snatch theft registered a 33 per cent fall. However, the police did not give absolute figures.

Also recording a second win was Central Police Division, which took the Best National Service Operationally Ready Unit award.

Clear communication and goal-setting were key to the win, said the unit's commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) (NS) Lionel Chai, as performance in the annual fitness and shooting tests were criterias for the award.

The field was more crowded this year, said DAC Chai, as four specialist units, such as the Police Coast Guard and Airport Police Division, joined the six police land divisions in the competition.

He said it is important to let the men know about incentives too, citing the example of a possible doubling of monetary incentives for passing the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

If the Government takes up a recommendation by the Committee to Strengthen National Service, NSmen who pass their IPPT will get $200 instead of $100.

"The men can afford a really good pair of running shoes then," he quipped.

This article was first published on June 9, 2014.
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