SINGAPORE - They fished for money meant for the mosque using a metal plate coated with glue.
While targeting donation boxes at the Sultan Mosque, the thieves did so with devious planning and no conscience.
First, they placed a laptop bag with a hole at its bottom over the slit of the donation box.
They then lowered the plate into the box with a string.
From the outside, their hands were hidden by the laptop bag and it looked as if they were rummaging through their belongings.
But they will not be able to use the ruse anymore, thanks to the new improved donation boxes designed by the police and mosque staff.
This technique was used in a series of thefts from donation boxes at religious institutions last year, a police spokesman said.
The "enhanced" donation box was one of several innovations showcased in this year's Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition at the Home Team Academy yesterday.
The idea came from a team of 11 officers from Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre.
With the help of mosque staff, they designed a box in which a piece of metal slanted at an angle beneath the opening prevents objects from being inserted into the box.
The metal piece would also prevent people from seeing how much money there is in the box.
Said one of the team members, Assistant Superintendent Han Zechou: "Since we deployed the prototypes at the mosque in January, there have been no cases of theft there.
"We're trying to sell this idea to other religious institutions as we don't want such a case to be reported again."
The new donation boxes cost around $600 each.
The manager of Sultan Mosque, Mr Ustaz Muhamed Khair Rahmat, said that while these improved boxes are not 100 per cent foolproof, they would make it harder for thieves to succeed.
Said Mr Khair: "Previously, thieves would just take the whole box and run away. So we made (the boxes) heavier.
"We then installed closed-circuit television cameras when people's belongings went missing, but thieves could hide from them."
Mr Khair caught one of the donationbox thieves red-handed last October and handed him over to the police. His accomplice was arrested by the police the next day.
The thieves, both Chinese nationals in their 20s, nearly escaped with around $1,900.
The money has since been returned to the mosque, he said.
The two men were sentenced to five months jail each, a police spokesman said.
Body-worn camera Wearable clip-on cameras allow frontline officers to record their interactions with people. The cameras capture high-definition video and audio. Weighing less than 100g, these cameras will be used by all frontline officers by 2015.
In-vehicle video recording system A system comprising a pair of front- and rear-viewing cameras will be installed in selected police fast-response cars next month. These cameras will be used to take traffic enforcement action against errant drivers. The footage can also be used for criminal investigations.
Mobicam This portable closed-circuit television platform allows live monitoring of public areas. It can be used in places where there are no suitable structures or power supply to set up a camera. It has a 14-day battery life and can be set up within three days.
This article was published on May 3 in The New Paper.Get The New Paper for more stories.