More cases of women being molested this year

SINGAPORE - The number of suspects arrested for outraging the modesty of women in Singapore has risen sharply this year, with many cases happening on public transport.

Figures collated from police news releases show 46 men have been arrested since January in connection with at least 54 cases.

Twenty of the alleged offences took place on public buses or trains, or when the victims were near train stations or bus-stops.

There were 17 arrests for outrage of modesty for the whole of last year.

These figures, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.

For starters, the police do not publicise all arrest cases. Also, many reported cases remain unsolved. And many more incidents go unreported, often because the victims do not want to come forward.

Monthly crime statistics shared by the police on its smartphone app, Police@SG, show an average of between 90 and 100 reports of molestation each month - the highest among the five preventable crimes in Singapore.

Molestation was flagged as an area of concern by the police when they released the 2012 crime statistics earlier this year, after reports of the offence on public transport shot up by more than a third - from 114 in 2011 to 153 last year.

This even as the total number of reports rose by only 1 percentage point from 1,396 in 2011 to 1,414 last year.

Mr Alvin Yeo, an MP on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said the spike in molestation cases could be because there are more commuters and also because more victims are willing to make a report.

"We still need to monitor the situation and certainly, if there is an increase, police should be concerned and take steps proactively to stamp such behaviour out," he said.

The police will release the crime statistics for the first half of this year on Friday.

Some of the suspects arrested this year were as young as 16 years, while some of the victims were barely into their teens.

Last Wednesday, a 21-year-old was arrested after he molested a 10-year-old girl on a public bus.

Crowded malls and streets are other places where offenders strike.

The crime map on Police@SG shows that in June, molesters struck 11 times in the Orchard Road area, the highest number recorded across different areas covered by Neighbourhood Police Centres.

Areas under Ang Mo Kio Police Division, which includes Yishun and Punggol housing estates, had the fewest molestation cases reported in June.

The police have been urging victims of molestation not to stay silent, and advise them to take note of the attacker's appearance, height, clothes and any distinctive physical features, and to call 999 for help.

Ms Tammy Tan, senior vice-president for corporate communications at SBS Transit, said that in the event of molestation on board a bus, its bus drivers have been trained to close the doors to prevent a culprit from escaping while waiting for the police.

An SMRT spokesman urged passengers to alert its staff if they are attacked, or if they witness such incidents.

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