Parliament: At least 2,300 cases of high-rise littering a year; surveillance cameras help nab litterbugs

Surveillance cameras have helped catch more than 2,200 high-rise litterbugs between August 2012 and December 2018. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - More than 7,700 cases of high-rise littering were reported between 2016 and 2018 to the National Environment Agency (NEA), ranging between 2,300 and 2,800 each year.

In most cases, the situation improved following efforts by the NEA, town councils, and grassroots organisations to caution against such offences, but the inconsiderate acts persist in some cases, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament on Tuesday (Sept 3).

"To address this, the NEA has since 2012 deployed surveillance cameras with video analytics to catch offenders in the act. These cameras have contributed significantly to improving the NEA's enforcement effort," said Dr Khor.

These cameras helped catch more than 2,200 high-rise litterbugs between August 2012 and December 2018, of whom 52 were repeat offenders.

Last Friday (Aug 30), Australian national Andrew Gosling was charged with causing death by performing a rash act, after a wine bottle he allegedly threw from the seventh-storey lift landing of a condominium struck a 73-year-old man on the building's fifth storey, causing his death.

Dr Khor added that stiff penalties are in place to deter high-rise littering.

First-time offenders can be fined up to $2,000 for each offence, while recalcitrant offenders face fines of up to $10,000 or Corrective Work Order (CWO) in addition to, or in lieu of, a fine on conviction.

About 2,600 CWOs were issued last year.

Earlier this year, the NEA also revamped the design of the CWO vest for offenders to increase the deterrent effect. The vest, which used to be in fluorescent yellow, is now a luminous pink and yellow combination that is hard to miss.

People can report high-rise littering via the NEA's hotline or provide information or evidence of an offence - such as photos and video footage - through the myENV mobile app.

The NEA received about 26,000 reports of littering and 2,700 of indiscriminate disposal of bulky items in public places in 2018.

It took about 39,000 enforcement actions against littering in public places, and another 30 for the unlawful disposal of bulky items in public places.

Dr Khor said enforcement action is taken when sufficient evidence is collected, and the process takes between 10 weeks and six months in most cases, depending on the complexity of the case and the response time of the parties involved.

"While we have laws to deter littering and other environmental offences, it is more important that we foster collective responsibility for our environment and cultivate positive social norms," she stressed.

To this end, the NEA works closely with the Public Hygiene Council and partners of the Keep Singapore Clean movement, she said, adding that significant resources are also devoted "to engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including residents, schools, communities, private and public organisations, as well as foreign workers".

Dr Khor said many of these groups organise ground-up activities such as litter-picking activities, beach and park cleanups, and cleaner appreciation days.

"Residents should also bin their litter properly, and contact their town councils for assistance in disposing of bulky waste items if they are staying in public estates," she added.

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