Community helps guard Singapore shores

A police simulation of smuggling activity (left), watched by watch group members Louis Tan, Mok Joo Kia (in red) and Jamain Suaib.
A police simulation of smuggling activity, watched by watch group members Louis Tan, Mok Joo Kia (in red) and Jamain Suaib.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO
A police simulation of smuggling activity (left), watched by watch group members Louis Tan, Mok Joo Kia (in red) and Jamain Suaib.
A police simulation of smuggling activity (above), watched by watch group members Louis Tan, Mok Joo Kia and Jamain Suaib.ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

New volunteer watch group teams up with police to patrol coastline

A boat pulls ashore off East Coast Park at 4am, and two men on board start transferring boxes to two other men waiting on the beach.

From a distance, three members of a newly formed watch group spot the suspicious activity and immediately call the police, who arrive within minutes.

The police officers nab the suspected smugglers.

The pre-dawn activity was all part of a simulation exercise yesterday to mark the launch of the East Coast Park Watch Group, which will serve as additional eyes and ears for the police along the area's coastline.

Made up of volunteers, the group will be trained to look out for suspicious people and activities along the coastline. The initiative, by the Bedok South Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) and Police Coast Guard, is aimed at beefing up security in the area.

TAPPING CIVILIAN RESOURCES

The ECP coastline is quite long, and our police resources cannot be everywhere all the time.

DEPUTY SUPT ANG MEI QI, commanding officer of Bedok South NPC, on getting the public involved in patrolling the coastline

Deputy Superintendent Ang Mei Qi, commanding officer of the Bedok South NPC, said: "When we patrolled here (the ECP coastline), we noticed there were quite a number of parkgoers, even in the wee hours... So we thought of getting these members of the public to help us."

It is the first time that the police have roped in volunteers to guard the coastlines, she noted.

"We want to empower our local community to take charge of their neighbourhood," she said.

The 120 volunteers, from various age groups, were given a half-day course by the Bedok South NPC and Police Coast Guard in August.

"We shared with them the kind of boats that are considered suspicious, what they should look out for when they are in East Coast Park, and what they should do if they do happen to see anything suspicious," said DSP Ang.

They were also taught safety and security procedures, she said.

There is no fixed schedule for the volunteers. They can take part when they have the time.

One of them, Mr Jamain Suaib, 69, said he felt compelled to be proactive about fighting crime after witnessing an attempted robbery near his block four years ago. "I immediately called the police," said the engineering consultant.

For another volunteer, retiree Mok Joo Kia, 70, there are other benefits. He said: "Patrolling is like exercise for old people, so it's beneficial for us too. We may be old, but we've got good eyesight."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Community helps guard S'pore shores'. Print Edition | Subscribe