Police patrols, with dogs trained to sniff out explosives, will be stepped up to cover more MRT stations and bus interchanges during this festive period, even as the number of arrests at such public places this year hit a three-year high.
The teams of three or four men each from the Public Transport Security Command (Transcom) and the K-9 unit of the Special Operations Command may also stop commuters to check their bags and pockets, as well as ask for their personal particulars if a person appears to behave suspiciously.
A person who is wanted for offences might be handed to agencies, such as the Central Narcotics Bureau or the National Environment Agency, a police spokesman said yesterday.
A check should not take more than two minutes, if the commuter is cooperative, said Transcom's Sergeant (NS) Bryant Choo yesterday.
These checks have proven useful, as they have led to arrests of people who possess dangerous weapons, such as brass knuckle-dusters, as well as stolen property, said the police spokesman.
Transcom's latest figures show 688 arrests were made in the first 10 months of this year, a number which already exceeds last year's 12-month figure of 676 arrests and 545 in 2015.
Arrests made in public places like MRT stations and bus interchanges in the first 10 months of this year, which is a three-year high.
Sgt (NS) Choo said the patrols typically cover crowded MRT stations such as Raffles Place, Bugis and Bayfront. While Transcom officers continue patrolling the stations that they are assigned to, K-9 officers and their dogs move from station to station.
More than 50,000 commuters are checked yearly by Transcom officers, who wear a dark-blue uniform and a light-grey beret, the spokesman said.
Yesterday, during a demonstration for the media on how police dogs detect explosives, officers said the animals will not approach a person without a command from their handlers.
During patrols, Transcom officers will walk alongside or behind the dogs, which will be on a leash held by a handler.
Sgt Choo noted that some people may be sensitive to dogs, so officers will place themselves between them and the canines.
Malaysian tourist Jessie Yit, 27, who was at Bayfront MRT station, finds the presence of the dogs reassuring. She said in Mandarin: "This is the first time I am seeing a police dog on patrol. I'm not afraid since it is on a leash. And I feel safer."