Wednesday 18 December 2013

Block gets CCTV to fight loan sharks

By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 17 Dec 2013

AUTHORITIES have brought forward the installation of closed-circuit television cameras at a Housing Board block targeted by loan sharks.

Residents of Block 538 in Limbang town, Choa Chu Kang, had been receiving letters threatening that they would be locked in their flats.

The tactic of sending such letters to random residents, even if they do not owe money, is often used by loan sharks.

Last night, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Alex Yam said that CCTV cameras were installed at the block two weeks ago, a fortnight sooner than they were due to be put in.

They have been put in places where they can catch anyone entering or leaving the block.

"If a block has three staircase landings, we have cameras installed at all three staircases," said Mr Yam.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, he issued a stern warning to loan sharks and runners, saying: "You threaten my residents, means you threaten me and my 500 volunteers. I don't like threats and we certainly don't take them lying down".

MP for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC Gan Thiam Poh told The Straits Times he had received about five complaints from residents about loan shark harassment this year and that he had been helping them to get permission for the installation of CCTV cameras.

"CCTV cameras are effective, but they can't be the only measure," said Mr Gan. "Police need to trace the culprit and catch the mastermind.

"I have been going around to share with residents that they need to come together to fight this crime. If every neighbour cares and helps each other, the loan shark runners would not dare to strike, knowing that there are many pairs of eyes watching them."

Police are hunting around 30 suspects allegedly involved in loan-sharking activities this year. The Singapore Police Force has put photos of the suspects - apparently from CCTV cameras - on its website, along with a request for information.

Last month, 22 men and four women were arrested for suspected involvement in two separate loan shark cases.

Anyone with information on the suspects' whereabouts is asked to call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000.

Bag of waste left at PAP branch office
Excrement found at door in Yew Tee days after MP's warning to loan sharks
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Dec 2013

VOLUNTEERS setting up tables and chairs for Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam's weekly Meet-the-People Session earlier this week were greeted by an unpleasant find.

A bag of excrement had been left at the back door of a People's Action Party (PAP) branch office in Yew Tee on Monday, days after Mr Yam issued a stern warning to loan sharks and runners operating in the neighbourhood.

The incident came to light after he wrote about it in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

Mr Yam told The Straits Times yesterday: "I do not at this point want to jump to any conclusions, whether it was mere coincidence or an actual act of mischief in response to my message.

"But if it is, I remain consistent, that we will do whatever it takes to keep our town safe for our residents."

Asked what was in the bag, he replied coyly that it "starts with 'f' and rhymes with species".

Two days before the incident, he had told loan sharks and their runners on his Facebook page: "You threaten my residents, means you threaten me and my 500 volunteers. I don't like threats and we certainly don't take them lying down."

This was in response to loan sharks sending a spate of letters to random units in one of the blocks in his ward.

Mr Yam has been spearheading increased efforts to deal with loan-sharking activity, including speeding up the installation schedule for security cameras at void decks in Chua Chu Kang.

Cameras will continue to be installed where necessary, said Mr Yam yesterday.

Two training sessions for residents and volunteers, as well as an anti-loan-sharking exhibition, will be held next year.

MPs who are also combating loan sharks in their wards told The Straits Times that they had neither encountered nor heard of similar incidents in which party locations were targeted.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said: "It's quite unusual for loan sharks to try and threaten us. They won't want to cross the authorities. (This is) assuming it's a loan shark - it may be someone taking advantage of the situation."

Loan sharks tend to resort to splashing paint and writing on walls as a harassment tactic, he added, rather than leaving excrement.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa said the incident in Yew Tee seemed isolated.

His experience in fighting loan sharks in Bukit Panjang has been the opposite: "Each time when we mobilise, usually the loan sharks will back off a bit. They can feel it."

Reported cases of unlicensed moneylending and related harassment have been on the decline since 2010.

There were 4,608 such cases from January to June this year, according to the latest figures in a written parliamentary reply in October. This was a 9.5 per cent drop from the 5,091 cases in the same period last year.

* Police 'eyes' help fight crime
Fall in loan shark, other criminal activities at HDB estates since CCTVs installed
By Joyce Lim, The Sunday Times, 5 Jan 2014

With more electronic eyes watching over the heartland, loan shark harassment cases are set to reach a new low since 2010.

For the first nine months of last year, there were 6,708 cases of unlicensed moneylending and harassment reported, down from about 8,000 cases for the same period in 2012 - a fall of more than 16 per cent.

The number of such cases has declined by about 20 per cent every year for the last four years - from 16,834 in 2010 to 13,342 in 2011, and 10,840 cases in 2012.

Police cameras, installed at HDB blocks from 2012, have contributed to the steady drop in loan shark and harassment cases, said a police spokesman.

The cameras are part of the Community Policing System which was launched in May 2012.

Police say that besides deterring loan shark runners and other criminals, video footage has helped solve 36 crime cases and provided leads in a further 169 investigations. These include housebreaking and outrage of modesty cases.

In the first nine months of last year, police arrested 1,631 people involved in unlicensed moneylending and harassment activities, against 1,440 people arrested in the same period in 2012.

Over 2011 and 2012, 3,896 persons were arrested for these offences. This is about 60 per cent higher than the 2,473 persons caught in the preceding two years.

At a community event in Pasir Ris yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said cameras have been installed at about 1,000 blocks. The aim is to have cameras at all 10,000 HDB blocks by 2016.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Lim Kok Thai said in an interview earlier: "For the footage to be effective in aiding investigations, the cameras will be installed at the key entry and exit points of HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks, such as ground-floor stairwells and lift lobbies."

Police told The Sunday Times that all HDB estates have at least one cluster of cameras each. These include housing blocks and multi- storey carparks, with about eight cameras at each block.

Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh said there has been a drop in loan shark harassment cases in his ward since the installation of the CCTV cameras.

"Some residents may find that the cameras have intruded into their privacy, but I would tell them to support... their neighbours who have been harassed by loan sharks."

Another key plank of the Community Policing System is increasing police presence by getting officers to do more foot and bicycle patrols.

Tampines resident Josephine Ong, 45, a housewife, said: "It is like reviving the kampung spirit that we used to have in the past. Police presence is good, but everyone living in the estate plays a part in ensuring that our neighbourhoods remain safe."

No comments:

Post a Comment