Residents urged to keep an eye out for vice

MPs say sex workers in heartland a security risk; 'all-out approach' needed to tackle issue

Sex workers operating out of homes in heartland areas pose a security concern, and residents should keep an eye out for vice activities, said Members of Parliament.

Communities need an "all-out approach" towards stamping out vice, said Mr Patrick Tay, an MP for West Coast GRC and a former police officer who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs. One way is for neighbours to inform the authorities when they suspect that vice activities are going on in their area, he said.

Last week, the police concluded an anti-vice raid in which a man and 96 women were arrested in more than 40 locations, including Yishun, Jurong and Chinatown, for offences in Housing Board flats, hotels and condominium units. It was the most extensive raid conducted in the heartland areas so far.

Local press reports said those nabbed were all foreigners.

More should be done to study how best to address vice in the heartland, said Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC who is on the same committee as Mr Tay.

Mr Ng noted that sex workers may simply move to other units, as they use the Internet or social media apps to advertise their services. His fear is that the sex trade will be driven underground, and "it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between the authorities and the sex workers".

The Straits Times yesterday visited two HDB units in Ang Mo Kio and Jurong West where women were still selling sexual services as recently as October last year.

Neighbours said the two flats are now vacant. At the unit in Jurong West Street 61, two dusty letters from the electricity and gas department lay outside the door. At the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 unit, knocks on the door behind the padlocked gate went unanswered.

While these units are now vacant, online listings of women promising sexual services remain. On a website, about 280 scantily clad women in provocative poses promised services ranging from massages to sex for prices between $80 and $280.

Posing as a customer, this reporter contacted 20 women who listed their numbers on the site. Ten replied, of whom six said they could be found in condos in areas such as East Coast Road, Tanjong Katong Road and Upper Serangoon Road.

Three were in HDB flats in Bedok South and Yishun, with two naming the same block in Bedok South. One claimed to work in a massage parlour in Serangoon Gardens.

Of the remaining 10, six did not reply while three did not continue the conversation. One said she was taking a break and will resume her services only early next month.

Mr Tay said: "We need to be concerned about the influence that sex workers may have on the neighbourhoods and the young children living in them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Residents urged to keep an eye out for vice'. Print Edition | Subscribe