SINGAPORE - The use of technology at Singapore checkpoints will be ramped up to ensure the country's security in the face of a manpower shortage.
By the end of the year, all motorcyclists passing through the Tuas and Woodlands land checkpoints will be screened by automated clearance facilities, announced Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam at the ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (April 6). They will have their passports verified by a machine and their thumbprints scanned for identity authentication.
Similar to the automated lanes available for Singaporeans at passenger checkpoints, this will be "more efficient, more convenient, without compromising on border security", Mr Shanmugam said.
A new operating model, which will see more self-service immigration facilities, will also be adopted at the new Changi Airport Terminal 4.
Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee added that travellers will go through enhanced automated lanes with biometric checks as well as centralised arrival and departure immigration halls. "These will allow the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority to optimise limited manpower and provide greater border security without compromising security standards," he said.
He added that these initiatives will be rolled out to all terminals eventually.
Workers' Party Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim had earlier highlighted the manpower challenges faced by auxiliary police forces, in particular Certis Cisco and Aetos officers. "One officer recently told me that the ratio allowed is five Malaysian to one Singaporean and I wonder if that is true," she asked.
She also questioned if there are current guidelines on the deployment of these officers. "For example, at immigration checkpoints, are there Malaysians checking their fellow Malaysians and what are the risks?"
In response, Mr Shanmugam said that ratio is incorrect and that more than half of the 7,000 current auxiliary police officers are Singaporeans. "We have deliberately maintained a Singaporean majority over the years and we will continue to do so," he said. "My ministry requires that all auxiliary police officers at our land checkpoints are Singaporeans."
Also, the Home Team will take up a more data-driven approach and harness technology effectively.
It will employ data analytics to anticipate where safety and security emergencies may take place, deploying resources accordingly to focus on these hotspots.
Police cameras, currently installed at Housing Board blocks and multi-storey carparks, will also be extended to public areas in HDB residential estates such as town centres, neighbourhood centres and public walkways linking HDB blocks to bus interchanges and MRT stations.
"Such initiatives will enhance our operational effectiveness, allow us to do more with a limited number of officers and free up manpower resources to be re-deployed to do more critical areas," he explained.