While the overall crime figures for the period Jan-Jun 2010 has dropped. Police would nonetheless like to highlight two key crime concerns, namely:
Prevalence of unlicensed moneylending (UML) and harassment cases; and
Youth involvement in crime (Youths refer to persons aged 7 – 19 years. They include juveniles aged 7 - 15 years and young persons aged 16 – 19 years).
- UML cases still a key area of concern despite drop in number of cases
The number of unlicensed moneylending and harassment cases has decreased from 9,424 cases in the first half of 2009 to 8,654 cases (or -8%) in the same period this year. Notwithstanding that, the total number of persons arrested for unlicensed money lending and harassment has increased by almost two-fold (by 88%), to 789 persons in the first half of this year as compared to 419 persons during the same period last year.
More significantly, Police have continued to hit relentlessly at the upper echelons of the loansharking syndicates. In the first half of this year, police had smashed a total of 8 loansharking syndicates as compared to 5 in the first half of last year.
Combating UML – A multi-pronged approach
Police will continue to clamp down on UML activities and those involved. A multi-pronged approach has been adopted to combat loansharking and harassment. Measures include enhancing legislation, stepping up enforcement and working hand-in-hand with the community on various anti-UML initiatives.
For instance, amendments4 to the Moneylenders Act 2008 were passed in Parliament and came into effect on 11 Feb 2010 which will see UML offenders liable to stiffer penalties.
The active involvement and close partnership between the community and Police remains pivotal in combating UML activities in our heartlands. For example, through various Community Safety and Security Programmes (CSSPs), the number of Neighbourhood Watch Groups (NWGs) formed with the strong support from the residents and grassroots to combat loansharking and related harassment activities have been increasing. The watchful eyes of these groups have been essential in the arrests of several loanshark runners and also in foiling attempts by loanshark runners to harass the residential units.
Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr Ng Boon Gay said, “Our efforts against unlicensed moneylending have shown some initial positive results, with the number of unlicensed moneylending and harassment cases falling by 8%. However, we will not let up on our enforcement efforts against loansharking syndicates and their members. Every single member of the syndicate, regardless of level, can expect to face the full brunt of the law.”
Members of the public who are considering borrowing money from illegal moneylenders should also think twice because of the dire consequences that may follow. Would-be debtors are advised that while loansharks may claim to offer rates of, for example 20% on the principal, in reality, the actual interest rate could be higher. In addition the number of repayments and instalments are left to the whims of the loansharks. Sums repaid are frequently voided, sometimes to zero, if debtors default on any subsequent repayments. Thus, debtors may end up "repaying" the amount borrowed many times over, and spiral into a trap of perpetual debt. The safety of their family and neighbours will be put at risk as loansharks may resort to unscrupulous methods in demanding repayments. There are existing legal channels for loans and members of the public are encouraged to use these channels.
Members of the public may call the related agencies such as Credit Counselling Singapore at 1800-225 5227 (Mon – Fri, 9 am – 6 pm) or email. The public can also check on the list of Registered (Licensed) Moneylenders.
To complement Police’s efforts in combating loansharking activities, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is also launching a new initiative on 5 Aug 2010 in the form of an hotline (1800-9245664) – under “Project No Ah Long”5 – for members of public to provide information on loansharking and harassment activities.
(Note : Please refer to the media statement released by the National Crime Prevention Council today for details on the project).
- Youth Involvement in Crime
Another key concern is youth crime. Although the total number of youths arrested for crimes in Jan-Jun 2010 has decreased slightly as compared to Jan-Jun 2009 (from 2,289 persons to 2,086 persons), there was a slight increase in the proportion of youths arrested out of total persons arrested (or one percentage point) when we compare the two periods.
Youths were mainly arrested for theft and related crimes and rioting, which commonly arose from disputes which ended up in fights. Briefly, out of 8,653 persons arrested for overall crime from Jan-Jun 2010, 2,086 (or 24%) were youths. This compares to 9,908 persons arrested for overall crime in the same period last year, of which 2,289 (or 23%) were youths.
Youth Crime – A multi-faceted problem
Youth crime is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-agency, multi-stakeholder approach for lasting results. Educational institutions, law enforcement agencies, the social services sector, parents and youths themselves must all play a role in reducing youth crime.
Police will continue to work with schools and educational institutions to prevent youths from turning to crime.
At the same time, Police urge parents and family members to play their part to prevent youths from turning to crime by paying more attention to their activities and the company they keep. They can also remind their loved ones about the severity of participating in illegal activities and intervene promptly should they display tell-tale signs of being under the influence of bad company.