Building owners, event organisers ready to beef up security

A CCTV camera at Bishan Road, near Bishan MRT, on April 8, 2015.
A CCTV camera at Bishan Road, near Bishan MRT, on April 8, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Any added cost a small price to pay, they say, after minister's warning of terror threat

Building owners and event organisers say they are ready to upgrade their security measures in response to Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam's warning that the threat of terror attacks is at its highest level in recent times.

They admitted that it could add to overheads, but that was a small price to pay.

Said Mr Alejandro Helbling, general manager of luxury Sentosa resort Capella Singapore: "The value of lives far outweighs the cost of training and security infrastructure."

On Friday, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, spelt out in stark terms that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group poses a grave threat to the region and that Singapore is a prime target. He revealed that Singapore will be strengthening its security architecture, including having more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public places, and training special response teams to react swiftly to attacks.

But alongside a new national programme called SG Secure to train residents to protect society from attacks and ensure that racial and religious harmony is maintained, he also highlighted the need for building owners and event organisers to impose stringent security measures.

This could include CCTV systems that meet baseline technical standards and more security and bag checks at entry points.

Head of security at the Esplanade Vincent Luo said it has constantly improved and upgraded its CCTV coverage over the years, which has helped strengthened overall security of its premises.

Singapore Nightlife Business Association president Dennis Foo said most pubs and clubs already have CCTV cameras, but suggested that the next step is to ensure they are being watched, instead of being used to replay incidents which have happened. "CCTVs are essential not just to record incidents but should also be used to monitor activities in the venue to detect and prevent incidents," he said. "Security personnel should be monitoring the CCTVs on the control room screens most, if not all, of the time."

Still, Mr Laurence Wee, who sits on the management council of Golden Wall Centre, a commercial building in Short Street in Rochor, said that vigilance from members of the public should go hand in hand with tighter security measures: "All must practice due diligence."

Of late, mass-participant sports events have been seen as soft targets prone to attacks, but local event organisers said they are prepared to comply with increased security requirements.

Mr Jeffrey Foo, director of Infinitus which organises The Straits Times Run, Great Eastern Women's Run and the Illumi Run, said: "There's no way we would say that because of budget, we won't step up security. We will put in the resources when it's needed."

Mr Chris Robb, managing director of Spectrum Worldwide, organiser of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, said: "We've always worked with agencies such as the police to see what security levels are needed and we'll adapt accordingly." He highlighted how heightened security measures, such as more security fences and bomb sweeps, were implemented at local running events in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three and injured over 250 racegoers in 2013.

The Sports Hub, where the National Stadium, OCBC Arena and Singapore Indoor Stadium are, said it is "in constant consultation with Singapore Police Force and the relevant security agencies, to monitor and assess risk levels".

"While we cannot discuss or disclose details of our security arrangements given the heightened sense of threat, necessary precautions are in place."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 20, 2016, with the headline 'Building owners, event organisers ready to beef up security'. Print Edition | Subscribe