Four boys nabbed over vandalism spree

Four boys aged nine and 10 are under arrest on suspicion of vandalism after profanities and a slogan linked to loan sharks were found spray-painted on property and cars.

Police said yesterday that they nabbed the youngsters on Tuesday, after receiving a call from a member of the public, who helped to detain them.

Four cars and a bicycle were found sprayed with paint of various colours in a multi-storey carpark at Block 169, Punggol Field. Walls and letter boxes of the neighbouring Block 168C Housing Board block of flats had also been targeted.

They are believed to have spray-painted, among other things, profanities and the "O$P$" call-sign - short for "owe money, pay money" - that is typical of loan sharks and runners.

The Straits Times understands that the boys are from the same nearby school, with three of them in Primary Four and one in Primary Five.

Officers from Ang Mo Kio Police Division responded to a call at 2.15pm from Mr Benjamin Lei, 33, who helped to detain the boys.

He told The Straits Times that he was visiting his in-laws when he spotted the boys acting suspiciously at the multi-storey carpark. "I didn't witness what they did, but something told me they were up to no good," said the regional sales executive.

"When I was approaching them, they said 'quick, quick quick'. I saw them trying to hide some cans and heard the ball-bearing sound in the can."

He then turned around and saw that a nearby car had been spray-painted. He stopped the boys as they walked away and called the police.

Mr Lei said: "They were compliant when I told them to stop. They might have been too scared to run away."

He added that the boys told him they knew vandalism was a serious crime, but kept quiet when he asked why they did it.

"They are still so young," he said. "If we don't do anything right now, it will get even worse because they might think such behaviour is correct."

Vandalism carries a maximum punishment of three years in jail or a fine of up to $2,000, and caning of between three and eight strokes. Courts typically seek to rehabilitate juvenile offenders, either through probation or detention in a home.

It is the latest in a series of juvenile arrests made by the police this month.

On April 3 and 4, one boy and two girls aged between 13 and 15 from a secondary school in Jurong West were arrested on suspicion of committing mischief by fire. On April 1, a 13-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly throwing two bricks from the 12th floor of Block 116, Jalan Bukit Merah.

This article was published on April 25 in The Straits Times.

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