Sunday, 16 February 2014

Overall crime rate falls to 30-year low

But online cheating cases, Internet love scams up
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE'S overall crime rate may have hit a 30-year low last year, but online offences were on the rise, annual police statistics revealed yesterday.

There were just 549 cases of crime per 100,000 people, with the total number of cases falling to 29,668 from 31,015 cases in 2012.

Of the six classes of crime, four registered lower figures last year - crime against people, housebreaking and related crime, theft and related crime, and miscellaneous crime.

But commercial crime rose more than 10 per cent to 3,880 cases last year. Police flagged cheating cases involving e-commerce - which more than doubled last year - and Internet love scams as areas of concern.

The former often saw victims lured into making multiple payments for cheap smartphones or tablets after being informed by the "seller" of Customs mix-ups or delivery problems.

In 2012, there were only 14 such cases but last year, there were 231. About two-thirds of the victims were working professionals aged between 20 and 39.

Internet love scams first appeared in Singapore in 2008, with seven reported cases. There were 81 cases last year, up from 50 cases in 2012, with victims handing over $5.8 million, up from $1.18 million in 2012.

One 74-year-old victim lost $1 million after being duped into making a string of payments.

"Most of the increases in commercial crime are related to increases in crime online," said Senior Assistant Commissioner (SAC) and director of operations Lau Peet Meng. "This relates to transfers of money to persons overseas, for various kinds of scams."

The other category to record an increase was violent or serious property crime, which increased from 389 cases to 406. This was despite robbery cases falling to a 20-year low of 252 cases last year from 290 in 2012.

The classification was renamed this year from "violent property crime" to reflect the growing trend of cyber-extortion cases that do not necessarily involve physical violence.

Some of these cases involved men being lured into performing "cybersex" with women overseas who then threaten to circulate compromising videos of them in a bid to extort money. There were 108 cyber-extortion cases last year, 44 more than in 2012.

"We'd like to remind members of the public to be very careful about transferring money online," said SAC Lau. "They should make sure they know who they are transferring the money to and at least to someone who they've met before."

Crimes which have been a cause for concern in the past, such as harassment cases stemming from unlicensed moneylending, continued to fall.

There were 7,052 such cases last year, down from 8,989 in 2012.

The number of youths arrested last year fell to 3,020 from 3,359 in 2012, though the number arrested for rioting last year rose to 283 from 239.

Crimes in casinos continued their downward trend, with 139 cases last year, down from 214. Police said most of these were "opportunistic" theft and cheating cases and not syndicate activity.


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