Fall in loan shark, other criminal activities at HDB estates since CCTVs installed

A CCTV camera being installed at the foot of a stairwell at an HDB block in Jalan Bukit Merah. With more electronic eyes watching over the heartland, loan shark harassment cases are set to reach a new low since 2010. -- ST PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR
A CCTV camera being installed at the foot of a stairwell at an HDB block in Jalan Bukit Merah. With more electronic eyes watching over the heartland, loan shark harassment cases are set to reach a new low since 2010. -- ST PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR

With more electronic eyes watching over the heartland, loan shark harassment cases are set to reach a new low since 2010.

For the first nine months of last year, there were 6,708 cases of unlicensed moneylending and harassment reported, down from about 8,000 cases for the same period in 2012 - a fall of more than 16 per cent.

The number of such cases has declined by about 20 per cent every year for the last four years - from 16,834 in 2010 to 13,342 in 2011, and 10,840 cases in 2012.

Police cameras, installed at HDB blocks from 2012, have contributed to the steady drop in loan shark and harassment cases, said a police spokesman.

The cameras are part of the Community Policing System which was launched in May 2012.

Police say that besides deterring loan shark runners and other criminals, video footage has helped solve 36 crime cases and provided leads in a further 169 investigations. These include housebreaking and outrage of modesty cases.

In the first nine months of last year, police arrested 1,631 people involved in unlicensed moneylending and harassment activities, against 1,440 people arrested in the same period in 2012.

Over 2011 and 2012, 3,896 persons were arrested for these offences. This is about 60 per cent higher than the 2,473 persons caught in the preceding two years.

At a community event in Pasir Ris yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said cameras have been installed at about 1,000 blocks. The aim is to have cameras at all 10,000 HDB blocks by 2016.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Lim Kok Thai said in an interview earlier: "For the footage to be effective in aiding investigations, the cameras will be installed at the key entry and exit points of HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks, such as ground-floor stairwells and lift lobbies."

Police told The Sunday Times that all HDB estates have at least one cluster of cameras each. These include housing blocks and multi- storey carparks, with about eight cameras at each block.

Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh said there has been a drop in loan shark harassment cases in his ward since the installation of the CCTV cameras.

"Some residents may find that the cameras have intruded into their privacy, but I would tell them to support... their neighbours who have been harassed by loan sharks."

Another key plank of the Community Policing System is increasing police presence by getting officers to do more foot and bicycle patrols.

Tampines resident Josephine Ong, 45, a housewife, said: "It is like reviving the kampung spirit that we used to have in the past. Police presence is good, but everyone living in the estate plays a part in ensuring that our neighbourhoods remain safe."

joycel@sph.com.sg

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