Saturday 31 January 2015

Big spike in cyber scams drives up crime stats

TODAY, 30 Jan 2015

A startling three-fold jump in the number of cyber-cheating cases drove up the total number of crimes here for the first time since 2009, the police’s latest annual crime statistics show.

Overall, there were 29,984 cases reported last year, 7.4 per cent more than in 2013. While most crime classes continued to register declines, e-commerce cheating or extortion on cyberspace climbed from 510 cases to 1,659 cases last year, in addition to blips in statutory rape and outrage of modesty cases.

Shoppers who were duped into making multiple payments for purported online bargains made up the bulk of these cases. The 904 cases last year was more than triple that in 2013. Crooks would put up advertisements for products at low prices but ask for payments repeatedly on the pretext that the goods would be delivered eventually.

Bogus emails from online payment service PayPal asking victims to disclose their personal information was another favoured scam, with the number of cases jumping from nine in 2013 to 122 last year.

And despite warnings in the last six years, women still fell for cheats posing as Casanovas online to ask for monetary “help”. Such cases more than doubled to 197 last year, involving a whopping S$8.8 million. Similarly, there were more than twice as many people falling prey to hoaxes of their loved ones being kidnapped last year.

New Internet scams have also emerged, in the form of fake gift cards or virtual credits being peddled online, the police warned yesterday. There were 149 such cases reported last year, with victims losing a total of S$138,700.

To curb the growing trend of online crimes, the police said they will carry out more exercises to educate the public on the scammers’ modus operandi.

“Internet users are also urged to exercise heightened vigilance to avoid falling victim to such preventable crimes,” they added.

Meanwhile, the higher number of youth arrested was flagged as a key crime concern. Last year, 3,094 youth were nabbed, up 2.1 per cent. They were arrested for offences such as rioting (39 persons) and shop theft (14).

There were also 66 cases of statutory rape — where a person has consensual sex with a female below age 14 — with the majority of these committed by youth who are known to their victims, the police said.

Molestation statistics also worsened by 3.2 per cent to 1,367 cases, with more cases being perpetrated on public transport. To deter would-be predators, the Public Transport Security Command regularly conducts patrols at the train networks, and broadcasts educational videos at MRT platforms, the police said.

On the positive side, housebreaking and theft cases both fell, while loanshark harassment continued its slide since 2010 to 5,763 cases last year.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee said despite the increase in overall crime, Singapore’s crime rate — defined as the number of crimes per 100,000 population — remained low.

To beef up its crime-fighting capabilities, the police also announced yesterday that they will roll out body-worn video cameras today.

Police to deploy body-worn cameras from Jan 30
Channel NewsAsia, 29 Jan 2015

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) will start deploying body-worn cameras (BWC) at all 35 Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs) to enhance frontline crime fighting capabilities, the SPF announced on Thursday (Jan 29).

In the first phase, frontline police officers from Bukit Merah West NPC will don the BWCs from Friday. Officers from five other NPCs will don the cameras by June 2015.

These are:
- Ang Mo Kio North NPC, Ang Mo Kio Police Division
- Bedok South NPC, Bedok Police Division
- Bukit Merah East NPC, Central Police Division
- Jurong West NPC, Jurong Police Division
- Toa Payoh NPC, Tanglin Police Division
The deployment of the BWCs will be completed by June 2016, said the SPF.

The cameras can record both video and audio, and will be worn in a visible manner on the front of the officer's uniform, said SPF. They will be switched on when the officers are performing their duties, and officers will be able to stop recording in certain situations, such as when dealing with victims of sexual offences. During recording, the camera's LED indicator will blink red, and footage of the recording might be shown on the LED screen.

Strict safeguards and limits have been put in place on the use of the footage, said SPF. For example, footage will be deleted after 31 days from the date of recording, unless it is required for official use such as police investigations.


The use of the BWCs will "facilitate police investigations and the gathering of evidence", said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Lau Peet Meng.

"The BWCs will complement existing forensic methods to allow the police to piece together what actually happened at an incident," added DC Lau. "The body-worn camera is part of the SPF’s technology roadmap to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of policing in Singapore for a safe and secure home for all of us."

The BWCs to be deployed are currently being trialled by the Hong Kong Police Force and the UK Metropolitan Police Service. Both these police forces have found the cameras useful in deterring crime and in collecting information or evidence, said SPF.

The usage of BWCs was first announced in March 2014.

More people molested on public transport
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2015

SCREAM or tell someone if you are molested on a train.

With more cases of such outrage of modesty occurring on public transport last year, police want commuters to expose perpetrators as soon as possible so they can be arrested.

Last year, there were 164 reports of molestation on public transport, up from 154 in 2013, police told The Straits Times.

Overall, molestation cases increased from 1,325 to 1,367 in the same period, according to the police's annual crime statistics released yesterday.

This is still lower than the 1,420 reports made in 2012.

Arrests also went up from 781 in 2013 to 842 last year.

But more cases are occurring in public areas such as trains, parks and on the streets, said the police.

Police conduct regular patrols at train stations to deter molesters and work with transport operators to broadcast public education videos at MRT platforms on how people can protect themselves.

But commuters also have a part to play. MP Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punngol GRC), who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "Commuters shouldn't let their guard down and must also help each other. If you see someone taking a nap next to you, you can help to look out for them."

Mr Patrick Nathan, SMRT vice-president for corporate information and communications, advised passengers to be vigilant and victims to seek help immediately.

But many victims are too taken aback to do anything. Administrative executive Nyam Seow Wei, 25, recalled how a man on a bus touched her buttocks. "I was too shocked... so I just stared at him and walked away. Now, I try to stand closer to women instead of men."


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