Thefts at Clarke Quay on the rise, police warn

Landlords beef up security as number of cases goes up from three to five a month

While it is party central for many, Clarke Quay is also becoming a target for crime.

The arrest of six men at the popular entertainment area in a single Sunday night two weeks ago for separate offences brought the total tally to 18 people arrested for theft and similar offences in the area so far this year.

Police said there has been an increase in thefts at Clarke Quay in recent years, from an average of three cases a month in 2011 to five cases a month now.

"On most occasions, the victims had fallen asleep in open areas after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol and were targeted," said a police spokesman, adding that these crimes targeting valuables such as wallets and cellphones usually occurred in the early morning when nightspots were closing, and usually at dimly lit areas and open spaces.

Perpetrators operate individually or in groups of up to four. The victims were not of any specific profile - other than being drunk - and those arrested so far have all been Singaporean.

A particularly vulnerable area is Read Bridge, which spans Riverside Point on one side and Clarke Quay on the other.

Landlords on both sides of the river said they have stepped up security.

At Riverside Point, Far East Organization retail business group's chief operating officer, Mr Kelvin Ling, said the mall has 24-hour security coverage, with regular surveillance and scheduled patrols.

Clarke Quay's management said the entertainment area, which receives more than a million visitors every month, had its closed-circuit television (CCTV) network extended at the start of the year and patrols have been stepped up, though it declined to provide numbers.

"Our security personnel regularly attend crime prevention courses conducted by the Singapore Police Force and have been briefed to pay special attention and provide assistance to intoxicated individuals who may be vulnerable to crime," said CapitaMalls Asia's centre manager Ong Kee Leng.

They were needed at a restrobar a few weeks ago when a man tried to swipe a handbag that had been left on a table by a patron when she went to the toilet.

"There was a waitress nearby but she was attending to another table," said the manager, who did not want to be named. "Luckily, our security staff saw and rushed over, and the man ran away. It was a pair - there was another guy with him."

Ms Francisca Boogert, a communications manager for three restaurants and bars at Clarke Quay, said her company doubled its full-time security staff to six in mid-2011.

At Brewerkz in Riverside Point, there are 25 CCTVs in the microbrewery itself. All valuables left behind by guests are put in a safe in the manager's office and logged.

CCTVs are "not just to prevent theft, but the recordings also serve as evidence of what actually happened", said Brewerkz event coordinator Thomas Huan.

"It's as much for the protection of our customers as for ourselves."

Workers in the area said while security measures have been stepped up, more can still be done to deter petty thefts.

Mr Federico Echavez, who mixes drinks at Chupitos Shots Bar, said that the stretch of road between Clarke Quay and Liang Court could be tempting to thieves, especially in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday after the clubs in the areas close.

"Sometimes when I come out and smoke, I can see drunk clubbers lying against the railings or sitting on the floor as they wait for taxis. It can reach a hundred-plus people, from here to the McDonald's.

"And as far as I can see, this stretch has no cameras," he said.

yanliang@sph.com.sg