Night spot check: CNB's island-wide enforcement ops

Fourteen male and one woman female suspected drug offenders were taken away for questioning and urine tests
PHOTO: Lianhe Zaobao

Dressed in a crop top and a short skirt, the attractive young woman stood out among the crowd at the nightspot.

But it wasn't just the way she looked that got her noticed.

It was also what was in her bag: An apparatus used to smoke methamphetamine or Ice, which the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers zoomed in on.

With more young people taking drugs, raids like this that took place at a club earlier in the week will not be letting up any time soon.

Between January and June last year, 1,684 abusers under 30, with one in three being new abusers, were arrested. This is up from 1,560 in the same period in 2014.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, The New Paper followed CNB officers on a raid at the club, as part of the Bureau's anti-drug enforcement operations.

Some partygoers looked glum-faced as their night out was disrupted.

The woman in the crop top, who looked to be in her 20s, sat in a corner of the club, her face solemn and expressionless. For the next 10 minutes, she occasionally adjusted her outfit, but barely said a word.

She spoke only when CNB officers asked her about the device in her bag.

One of her friends then stood up and started shouting.

A CNB officer standing in front of him said sternly: "You want to get into trouble? It's not going to be worth it."

The male patron promptly sat down.

AGGRESSIVE

The CNB officer later told TNP that they often come across aggressive patrons.

"Some are just unhappy that we affected their drinking session. But it's never right to take it out on a public servant," he said.

The woman, along with several of her friends, were eventually rounded up, cuffed and ushered into CNB vans. They were taken in for further questioning and urine tests.

A total of 15 suspected drug offenders were arrested at the club that morning, said the CNB.

Meanwhile, the rest of the club patrons left the premises as soon as they were allowed to.

A lot of planning went into the raid, said CNB. 

At 2.30am on Thursday, members of the media waiting at a police division were ushered into a convoy of vans that were packed with male and female officers in civilian attire.

Throughout the 20-minute drive, officers maintained constant communication through their walkie talkies.

When we reached the nightclub, they poured out of the vehicles and swarmed the premises.

By the time we entered the club, all of the lights were already switched on and officers had secured the exits and toilets. Officers had familiarised themselves with the club's floor plan and the profile of the crowd beforehand.

They then spread out in small teams and went about the screening process.

First, the patrons' particulars were jotted down and they were asked several questions.

Then, their bags, wallets and personal belongings were checked.

Patrons deemed suspicious - slurred speech, speaking incoherently or behaving oddly - were led outside, frisked and put through a more rigorous search.

Officers, for example, were seen checking every compartment of a man's wallet.

By the end of the night, we observed that at least 10 patrons, including the woman in the crop top and some of her friends, were taken back for questioning and urine tests.

It was the end of the night for us, but not the officers who were heading back to sort out paperwork, process the suspects and report the details of the operation to their management.

One of the officers told TNP that CNB officers toil away because they believe in their job.

"We've seen a lot of cases and how drugs cause harm to people and their families. So that's our job." 

115 arrested in 4-day drug bust

A total of 115 suspected drug offenders were arrested in a four-day operation that started on Monday, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said yesterday.

The drugs seized included 6.2kg of cannabis, 2.5kg of heroin, 1kg of methamphetamine or Ice, 1,807 Erimin-5 tablets, 506 Ecstasy tablets as well as small amounts of cocaine, ketamine and LSD (Lysergamide) stamps.

The operation by CNB, with help from the police, covered homes, budget hotels and nightspots in Balestier, Bukit Merah, Geylang, Jalan Besar, Jalan Sultan, Senja Road, Yio Chu Kang and Yishun.

The biggest bust came when CNB officers raided a unit on Fernvale Link on Wednesday night and seized 6.2kg of cannabis, 2.4kg of heroin, 120g of Ice, 438 Ecstasy tablets and 300 Erimin-5 tablets.

Two suspected male drug traffickers, aged 29 and 33, as well as a 37-year-old Singaporean woman were arrested. Officers went on to raid the older man's home in Punggol and recovered 630g of Ice and 719 Erimin-5 tablets.

Investigations are ongoing. Those convicted of trafficking more than 500g of cannabis or 15g of heroin may face the death penalty.

He once saw man abandon toddler to escape CNB

It has been 15 years since he joined the war against drugs.

And he doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.

That is because the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer, whom we shall refer to as Peter, has witnessed how drugs can destroy families.

He recounted how he once saw a father abandon his toddler in a bid to escape the officers.

In the incident that happened last year, Peter and his colleagues had just arrested a street-level drug trafficker in an HDB flat when a man carrying his two-year-old son knocked on the door.

Peter said: "He was possibly a client trying to buy drugs. So when CNB officers answered the door, he saw us and ran."

But Peter and his colleagues did not break into a pursuit because they were worried the man would do something foolish to his son.

"When we searched the staircase landing later, we found the boy. He was alone. By that time, the father had disappeared.

"It was very sad because that was the first time I witnessed a father abandoning his son just to escape the authorities."

When officers failed to reach the boy's mother on her mobile phone, they handed him over to KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

SEPARATED

Peter also recalled a single mother who was separated from her daughter for almost 10 years as she was in and out of jail for drug offences.

"The daughter had to be cared for by her aunt. Today, she is 23 and has not seen much of her mother over the past 10 years."

Such cases fuel Peter's passion for the job which is not without its share of challenges, such as when dealing with rowdy, intoxicated patrons during routine raids on nightspots.

"I can understand that many of them are upset because we interrupt their night after they have already paid for drinks. Some hurl vulgarities at us and act aggressively.

"I don't take what they say personally. We are here to do our job. If it gets too heated, I step back, and let a colleague handle the patron and return later to re-assess the situation."

CNB officers are trained to defuse potentially explosive situations, including identifying the leader in a group of troublemakers and removing him from it.

"It is usually for egotistical reasons that they get aggressive, wanting to show off to their friends or girlfriends.

"Many of them feed off each other so when we break up the group, they quieten down."

Peter, who is married and has two children aged below five, said his family never has to worry about his safety on the job.

"We always operate in teams and do our homework beforehand, gathering intelligence from other agencies if necessary. Risk is always kept to a minimum."

Good morning, we're from CNB: What happens during a CNB raid

The doorbell rang and the occupants inside the hotel room could be heard stirring.

Outside, a group of men and women had their backs close to the wall, armed and waiting eagerly for the signal.

When the lock was slowly unlatched and the door creaked open, the group rushed into the room with a "Good morning, we're from CNB (Central Narcotics Bureau)."

At just past 9am, the surprised occupants of the hotel room in the Balestier Road area could hardly register in their minds what had just happened.

On Monday, CNB officers conducted a large-scale anti-drug operation targeting suspicious guests at budget hotels in Balestier and Geylang.

They arrested 10 suspected drug offenders.

About 10g of methamphetamine or "Ice" was seized, as well as drug paraphernalia including a digital weighing scale and improvised drug-smoking apparatus.

The New Paper followed one of the teams conducting the morning raid.

The officers, aged between 20s and 40s, gave this reporter an up-close and personal look at their battle against drugs.

The team that raided three hotels were extremely professional. Nothing on them screamed CNB - some of the officers could be easily mistaken for your typical teenager or man in the street.

But make no mistake, the officers are all armed, said Superintendent (Supt) Saherly Limat, Commanding Officer of CNB Enforcement F Division.

He said: "Usually, if the suspects has nothing to hide, they know for sure they're clean. They just want the episode to end quickly. So they're cooperative."

But suspects can turn violent when they have broken the law.

Supt Saherly said: "Our officers are trained in basic control and restraint techniques. The violent suspects would be brought down for sure, but without any injuries as far as possible."

Before entering the rooms, the team first went through the guest list.

They looked for tell-tale signs such as guests with outstanding arrest warrants, prior drug convictions or those who registered using fake identification.

Once the suspects were identified, each member of the team stuck to his or her assigned role.

Some secured the hotel perimeter. Others carried the team's operations bag or even a bag with house-breaking tools.

During the raid, most of the occupants allowed the officers to search their belongings.

A tense moment erupted in a room on the sixth storey when a male occupant started shouting vulgarities.

But he later apologised, claiming he had directed it at his wife instead of the lead officer.

CLUES

Scanning the rooms, the officers looked for tell-tale objects like straws or burnt aluminium foil from a cigarette box.

Supt Saherly revealed that frequently seized drugs include Ice and NPS (New Psychoactive Substances).

Once the room was cleared and no suspicious items found, the officers left - but not before thanking the occupants for their co-operation.

At the end of the three-hour operation, no drugs were seized at the hotel where TNP accompanied CNB.

But two women were taken to CNB headquarters at Cantonment for urine tests.

One man, who had been flagged after his name appeared in a missing persons report, was also escorted back and has since been referred to the relevant authorities.

One tired-looking CNB officer from the team said that aside from looking for drugs, the team's role was also to project CNB's presence so others may be deterred from taking drugs.


This article was first published on Jan 30, 2016.
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