Auxiliary police officer patrols to be improved

Supt Ho says that since last year, APO patrols have started at 10am instead of 4pm, following residents' feedback.
Supt Ho says that since last year, APO patrols have started at 10am instead of 4pm, following residents' feedback.

A senior police officer has pledged to "constantly review and improve on" a system of auxiliary police officer (APO) patrols in Little India in the wake of the Dec 8 riot.

Feedback on the patrols has been positive since they began in 2008 in a tie-up with the Singapore Police Force, the inquiry into the riot heard yesterday.

The aim was to manage anti-social behaviour among foreign workers and to reinforce a uniformed police presence. But faced with complaints following the riot that the system is ineffective, Superintendent Victor Ho, 38, told the Committee of Inquiry (COI) yesterday he will "constantly review and improve on" the system.

This relates to matters such as the timing and location where these APOs are deployed, as well as how they handle incidents.

APOs do not have the power to carry out arrests, but they can keep an offender at the scene while waiting for police officers to arrive. They can also issue summonses for environment offences, such as urinating, littering or spitting in public.

The APO presence in Little India has been ramped up from 12 teams in 2009 to 27 teams currently, Supt Ho said. Each team comprises one APO and two security officers.

But COI chairman G. Pannir Selvam had harsh words for him. "(They) ticket for littering and things like that, but the major problems of (foreign workers) going into these void decks, nothing was done. It seems that you go for the smaller thing but you ignore the major things."

Supt Ho said residents' feedback had been taken on board. For instance, APO patrols started from 10am last year instead of 4pm before, after it was highlighted that foreign workers were starting to congregate earlier.

Meanwhile, closed-circuit television cameras will be progressively installed at void decks in Little India, following a successful year-long trial of 20 cameras at Teban Gardens and Jurong West.

The real-time footage will be monitored at the APO command post at Rochor Neighbourhood Police Centre. "The installation of CCTVs aims to extend the reach of APO patrols and enhance their capabilities to react to situations on the ground," said Supt Ho.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

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