SINGAPORE - It was a quiet afternoon in the neighbourhood of Jurong West Street 74 when three women were led handcuffed through the void deck of Block 755 into a police van.
The women, all from China, were alleged to have been operating an illegal brothel in a five-room Housing Board flat and advertising their services online.
They were arrested on Friday (Dec 8) during a four-day multi-agency enforcement operation led by Jurong Police Division, and supported by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Singapore Customs.
The operation from Tuesday to Friday (Dec 5-8) targeted residential, dormitory and public entertainment areas in western Singapore, including Bukit Batok, Chua Chu Kang, Jurong West and Woodlands.
Forty-five women and four men, aged between 23 and 48, were arrested. Out of the total, 37 women from China and Thailand were caught for suspected involvement in vice-related activities in residential units and forested areas.
When The Straits Times visited the Jurong West flat, it was sparsely furnished with just a queen-sized bed and a cupboard in each of the four bedrooms.
Condoms and lubricants were among the items found during the raid and lingerie could be seen hanging in the cupboards.
Housewife Liu Fang, 37, who has an eight-year-old son, was shocked to learn that there were illicit activities in the unit next to hers. Madam Liu, who has been living there for over 10 years, said the tenants moved in about two weeks ago.
While she has never spoken to them, she has noticed strangers loitering near the lift next to the flat.
"I've maybe seen about 20 men. I've also heard a few of them on the phone asking someone for the unit or floor number," she said
Speaking to the media at Jurong Police Division Headquarters after the raid at the HDB unit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Julian Chee, who is covering Commander of Jurong Police Division, said: "HDB brothels rely on the Internet to advertise their services, and the customer will often go online to search for these brothels.
"The police will investigate these cases and we will investigate the home owners as well. If the home owners are complicit in the vice activities, they will be prosecuted under the Women's Charter."
When asked why police were seen to be ramping up activities involving vice in residential areas, DAC Chee said: "80 per cent of Singaporeans stay in HDBs and we want Singaporeans to feel safe. That's why we take a very harsh stance on brothels in HDBs."
The four-day operation also saw four Singaporean men arrested for suspected involvement in various offences such as cheating and being members of unlawful societies.
Eight women, all Chinese nationals, were also arrested for immigration and employment-related offences.
Three public entertainment outlets were found to have flouted regulations under the Public Entertainment Act. Two of them had breached Fire Safety Rules and Regulations.
A total of 26 offenders were caught with duty-unpaid cigarettes and were issued composition sums ranging from $500 to $2,400.
DAC Chee said: "This joint operation is part of police's continuous efforts to clamp down criminal activities.
"The police will continue to work closely with other Home Team and law enforcement agencies to deal with those who take part in these illicit activities."