Terrorism key security threat facing Singapore

Police officers participating in an exercise to simulate a terror attack in 2013. MHA says the Home Team is ready to respond decisively in the event of a terrorist attack in Singapore.
Police officers participating in an exercise to simulate a terror attack in 2013. MHA says the Home Team is ready to respond decisively in the event of a terrorist attack in Singapore.ST FILE PHOTO

Public urged to be alert to warning signs; overall crime rate low but online crime up

Terrorism is the "most significant" security threat facing the Republic today, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday, even as it reassured Singaporeans that the overall crime rate here remains low.

It issued the warning after a string of global terror attacks, including those in Paris and Jakarta.

The ministry called on the public to remain alert to warning signs, such as self-radicalised individuals.

It added: "The Home Team will do its utmost to protect Singapore against terrorism, and be ready to respond decisively should there be a terrorist attack."

The ministry also highlighted trends of crime statistics which are set to be released by law enforcement agencies over the next few days.

The overall crime rate remains low although there was a slight increase from 2014, fuelled by a sharp increase in online crime - such as scams - which has persisted since 2013.

 

Almost all other types of crime have fallen.

Violent property offences and housebreaking are at their lowest levels in 20 years, while unlicensed moneylending harassment hit a 10-year low.

But the MHA also highlighted some areas of concern - such as the rising number of new drug abusers under 30 years old, and an increased number of arrests made for those who employ and harbour immigration offenders.

It also pointed out that the Home Team is facing increasing demands.

For instance, the number of emergency ambulance calls has been increasing at a rate of 5 per cent a year in the last five years - a trend set to worsen as the elderly population grows. But an expanded network of community volunteers will boost the Singapore Civil Defence Force's limited resources.

These volunteers, under initiatives such as the Neighbourhood Active Responder Programme, can respond to fires and other life-saving emergencies before officers arrive.

The MHA added that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), a crucial part of Singapore's bulwark against terrorism, is facing increasing traveller volumes at checkpoints.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said yesterday that Singaporeans have to be vigilant. "We should keep our children and families away from online attempts at radicalisation... In all things, let us stay united - it is the surest way to deny any terrorist a victory."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Terrorism key security threat facing S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe