Feeling safe at the park at night

SINGAPORE - It is 7.30pm and night has fallen, but the parks are still abuzz with activity.

Cyclists, joggers, dog owners and families with young children hang out there after the sun sets and the park lights come on.

For some, it is the only time of the day they can visit. Others want to enjoy the cool night air.

Visitors whom SundayLife! spoke to say Singapore's parks are generally well-lit. They are also not put off by the possibility of after- dark assaults or crimes.

In August 2013, for example, a 47-year-old manager went for her regular jog at night along a running track in Bukit Batok Neighbourhood Park at about 9pm, but was dragged into the bushes and raped. Earlier this month, her assailant was jailed for 15 years and ordered to be given 24 strokes of the cane.

Director of parks at the National Parks Board (NParks) Kartini Omar says that lights are generally turned on between 7pm and 7am at its parks.

When SundayLife! visited Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and West Coast Park last Monday from 7 to 10.30pm, at least 30 people were at each park - exercising, catching fish with small nets and walking their dogs.

Mr John Leow, 74, was brisk walking and jogging alone at 7.40pm at the 62ha Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

The accountant, who lives in a condominium in Ang Mo Kio, has been exercising there every day for the last three years, usually from 6 to 8pm.

He says: "I also come in the morning, but I prefer the park at night because it's cooler and quieter."

Is he concerned about safety?

"It's not dangerous here at all. The footpaths are brightly lit and there are people running and walking around even at 9pm," he says.

Lawyer Ho Keng Hoong, 40, was jogging at 8.20pm while his five-year-old son, Luke, was riding a micro- scooter.

He says: "I work in the day, so I can come only in the evenings. Coming to the park is a good way to spend time with my son and get some exercise after dinner."

Ms Pauline Chia, 43, who lives in Toa Payoh, was exercising her three-year-old dog, Sake, a cross between a samoyed and a golden retriever, at the fenced-up dog run.

Says the accounts executive, who started taking her dog to the park last year: "In other countries, I might think twice about visiting a park at night. But Singapore is so safe. And with such a big dog, who will dare to come near me?"

At West Coast Park, young children could be seen at the playground as late as 10.30pm.

Eight-year-old Tan Jun Kai and his sister, Jing Tian, six, were there playing on swings, throwing frisbees and riding a scooter.

Their mother, Ms Coco Li, 31, has been taking them to the park at night thrice a week since last year. Sometimes, the family, who live in Telok Blangah, would stay as late as 11pm.

Says Ms Li, a housewife: "I can jog while my kids are at the playground.

"It's good to get out of the house and get some fresh air. The park lights are very bright and we feel very safe."

NParks' Ms Kartini says that the lightbulbs at many parks, including Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and West Coast Park, were recently replaced with energy-saving ones as part of cyclical maintenance.

Some users, she notes, prefer to visit the parks in the evening, when ambient temperatures are cooler.

"This is especially when they engage in physical activities such as walking, jogging or cycling," she adds.

According to an advisory on the police website, visitors should keep to well-lit areas for their safety. They should not take short cuts through dark and deserted places or jog in secluded areas. They should always be alert and attentive to their surroundings.

The advisory states: "If you suspect that you are being followed, remain calm and proceed to the nearest open business premises, crowded area or call the police to seek help."

This article was first published on January 18, 2015.
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