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Singapore 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office, U.S. Embassy Singapore. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Singapore. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Singapore country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Singapore has been assessed as Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Singapore as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Singapore remains one of the safest cities in the world. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit 2019 Safe Cities Index, Singapore topped the list as the world’s safest city in the categories of Personal and Infrastructure security. The “Lion City” also ranked first in the 2019 Gallup Global Law and Order report. Crime is generally non-confrontational and non-violent in nature, and incidents are typically crimes of opportunity (e.g. purse snatching, pickpocketing, theft of unattended property). Violent crime is rare. If a weapon is involved, it is likely an edged weapon (e.g. knife, box cutter), as authorities strictly control firearms, and the punishment for possessing them is severe. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

In 2019, the crime rate in Singapore increased by 16.3% to 35,209 reported cases, up from 32,126 reported incidents in 2018. The increase in the number of crimes is attributed to a rise in scam-related cases. If scams were excluded, the total number of reported crimes would have decreased by 4.6% to 25,707 cases in 2019, from 26, 937 in 2018. Four of the six categories of crime saw sharp declines in 2019 from the previous year. Crimes against persons dropped 12.2%, serious property crimes plummeted 26.2%, housebreaking decreased by 14.9% and theft dipped 8%. Motor vehicle and related thefts and robbery and snatch theft cases registered a 35-year low in 2019 with 24.1% and 22.2% declines respectively. Singapore also saw a 5.6% decrease in “Outrage of Modesty (OM)” (rude/inappropriate behavior) cases in 2019. OM cases can range from unwelcome comments or gestures to inappropriate physical contact. Most OM incidents occurred on public transportation, at shopping malls, and popular nightlife venues. Singapore was proud to announce a period of 179 crime-free days in 2019 without any reports of snatch theft, robbery, or burglary.

Although Geylang and certain lower-cost government housing areas suffer from more serious crimes (e.g. mugging, loan sharking, and illicit drug use), the rate is still lower than comparable areas in the U.S. Geylang is a known “red light” district, harboring prostitutes and reportedly hosting an increase in organized criminal gangs. Prostitution is legal, but various prostitution-related activities – public solicitation, under-age prostitution, pimping, living on the earnings of a prostitute, maintaining a brothel – are not. In practice, the police are believed to unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels.

Singapore’s nationwide network of police cameras has been helpful in fighting crime. To date, Singapore police have installed over 80,000 cameras throughout the country, to include 10,000 cameras in Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks and multi-story car parks (MSCPs) as part of a program known as PolCam. PolCam is a multi-year public initiative to enhance the safety and security of neighborhoods and public spaces using a large network of police cameras.

 Vandalism carries minimum sentencing that includes caning.

Other Areas of Concern

The areas where bars stay open late – namely Robertson, Clarke, and Boat Quays along the Singapore River, and the Orchard Towers complex on Orchard Road – represent most likely zones for people to find trouble in Singapore, especially at night. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

Cybersecurity Issues

Singapore is a digitally connected city, making it susceptible to online crimes, many perpetrated by foreign online syndicates. Online scams rose by 53.5% to 9,502 cases in 2019, from 6,189 in 2018. This made up 27% of the overall crime for the year. Along with the spike in online scams came a substantial increase in the amount of money lost by victims. Losses from the top ten scams totaled SGD$168.1 million, up from SGD$144.9 million the previous year. Such cases include unauthorized access or transaction of an individual’s online accounts, unauthorized purchases using credit/debit cards, and phishing emails that obtained sensitive personal information. Of particular concern to the SPF are e-commerce scams, credit-for-sex scams, and loan scams, which constituted 60% of the top ten scams.

For consecutive years, e-commerce scams have the highest number of reported cases. For 2019, the number of e-commerce cases rose 30% to 2,809. Victims lost approximately SGD$2.3 million.

Loan Scams increased by 83.2% to 1,772 cases in 2019. Total amount defrauded was approximately SGD$6.8 million, and the largest single amount lost was SGD$195,000.

Credit-for-sex scams are scams in which criminals pose as attractive women on social media platforms in order to convince men to buy them gift cards with the promise that they will meet, go on a date, and/or offer sexual services. Such scams were the third-most reported type of online scam, and rose sharply by 99.8% to 1,065 cases in 2019, up from 533 in 2018. The total amount lost was approximately SGD $1.5 million. Alipay and iTunes cards are often used for money transfers related to e-commerce scams.

Singapore Top Ten Scam Categories in 2019

 

Cases Reported 2019

Change From 2018

Money (SGD) Lost 2019

Largest Single Amount (SGD) Lost

E-Commerce Scams

2,809

+648

$2.3m

$180k

Loan Scams

1,772

+805

$6.8m

$195k

Credit-For-Sex Scams

1,065

+532

$2.8m

$80k

Social Media Impersonation Scams

810

+703

$3.1m

$330k

Internet Love Scams

649

-19

$34.6m

$4.6m

Investment Scams

508

+161

$36.9m

$5.3m

China Officials Impersonation Scams

455

+154

$21.1

$1.3

Business Email Impersonation Scams

385

+10

$45.4m

$4.1m

Lucky Draw Scams

311

+152

$1.2m

$314k

Tech Support Scams

249

+226

$13.9m

$1.6m

 

The top five digital platforms used in e-commerce scams are 1) Carousell, 1,239 cases; 2) Facebook, 602; 3) Shopee, 279; 4) Lazada, 197, and; 5) Instagram, 103.

ScamAlert.sg provides information on the latest scams in Singapore, and allows the public to share their experiences with others. Victims can also report scams to the Anti-Scam Helpline at: 1-800-722-6688.

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Singapore is a right-side drive nation with first-world road conditions, including well-illuminated and well-paved thoroughfares with English-language signage, and 4- to 6-lane expressways spanning the country. Although traffic can be a bit more hectic than what is common in the U.S., with drivers seemingly occupying two lanes at once and motorcycles darting from lane to lane between cars, traffic accidents are relatively rare. Nevertheless, drivers should be cautious, as speed cameras are present, and police regularly enforce speeding violations.

Drivers should recognize the difficulty posed by frequent, sometimes heavy downpours that can dump several inches of water on the roads in minutes.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

As a result of the high cost of owning a personal vehicle and the government’s significant emphasis on promoting public transportation, Singapore offers a wide variety of publicly accessible forms of transit (i.e. bus, rail, taxi, and increasingly, ride-share services). At least half of Singapore’s population rides public transportation, with about 5.4 million trips made each day.

Singapore's public transportation system includes Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), and buses. Thanks to new construction, the MRT network in Singapore continues to expand. The system now encompasses more than 130 stations and 200 kilometers of track across five lines. The MRT has over three million riders daily. The LRT has 40 stations across two lines and 28 kilometers of track. The North-South Line, East-West Line, and Circle Line are operated by SMRT Trains (SMRT Corporation), while the North-East Line and Downtown Line are run by SBS Transit. Although buses still enjoy daily ridership exceeding the number carried on both the MRT and LRT systems, the Land Transport Authority plans to expand the rail system such that buses will play only a feeder role to an extensive rail network.

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Singapore’s Changi International Airport (SIN), with its four terminals, is one of the most important aviation hubs in the region. Changi Airport handles over 65 million passengers each year and has been voted number one in the world in terms of customer satisfaction for several years running.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Singapore as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Singapore remains relatively free from credible terrorism threats. The Singaporean government, however, regularly cites terrorism as one of its top concerns, and is keenly aware of the threats posed by self-radicalized Singaporeans and returning terrorist fighters. Authorities are concerned returning foreign terrorist fighters and self-radicalized individuals from neighboring countries might attempt to travel to Singapore to conduct an attack.

 A small number of Singaporean citizens have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Local media has expressed concerns that home-grown, self-radicalized terrorists may become a security issue. As part of an effort to counter these concerns, the government has continued to make use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which authorizes the arrest and detention of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activities for up to two years without trial. As of the date of this report, 2019 statistics for the number of individuals dealt with under the ISA were not available. During 2017 and 2018, eight self-radicalized Singaporeans had been issued Restriction Orders and/or Order of Detentions under the ISA, bringing the total to 22 since 2015.

Singaporean officials frequently emphasize the importance of community involvement and preparedness as a critical element in national security. In 2016, the government launched a mobile app called SGSecure to better prepare the community against the threat of terrorism. The app allows the public to receive alerts during terrorist attacks or other emergencies, to send information to the authorities, and to download information on counterterrorism. Authorities have introduced SGSecure programs to schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and community groups to strengthen individual and institutional preparedness. Following the launch of SGSecure, Singapore’s Home Team has been training local communities to help prevent and respond to a terrorist attack. The government holds emergency preparedness days during the year to prepare first responders and the public for a terror attack. Other initiatives include the formation of neighborhood volunteer groups comprised of citizens who receive instruction of life-saving skills like CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Singapore as a LOW-threat location for political violence. Singapore has one of the most stable governments in the world. The government is competent in managing the country's economy and largely free from political corruption. Although the constitution provides for freedoms of speech and expression, the government imposes official restrictions on these rights.

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) first assumed power prior to Singapore’s independence in 1959, and has won a majority in every general election since 1965. The PAP has been criticized for maintaining its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action, to include the restriction of opposition parties. A constitutional provision, however, assures at least nine opposition members hold seats in parliament.

Civil Unrest

Public demonstrations are legal only at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park, and most outdoor public assemblies require a police permit. Singapore amended its laws in 2017 to forbid foreign nationals who are not permanent residents from observing permitted public demonstrations, assemblies, and processions at Speakers’ Corner. The law does not distinguish between participants and observers, so authorities may consider anyone at Speakers’ Corner part of an event. Penalties may be severe, including large fines and/or imprisonment.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Singapore has not experienced significant natural disasters in recent years.

In September 2019, a thick haze from burning brush in Indonesian Sumatra covered much of the island, elevating the Pollutant Standards Index to above 100 for the first time in three years. This resulted in potential health risks for certain segments of the population prone to respiratory problems, the elderly, and young children. Recess and other outdoor activities at schools were disrupted during this period. View the Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) for Singapore online.

Economic Concerns

Singapore’s judicial system is recognized around the world for its legitimacy and impartiality under the law. Despite the emergence of cyber and economic crime, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Singapore as the fourth least corrupt country in the world. A special agency (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, CPIB) investigates and prosecutes corruption charges.

Personal Identity Concerns

The law prohibits rude and disorderly behavior, particularly when directed toward women. Rules against such behavior are firmly enforced and carry severe penalties, to include caning and imprisonment under Singapore’s OM law. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

Singapore does not recognize same-sex unions. The Penal Code criminalizes any “act of gross indecency” between two men and prescribes a sentence not exceeding two years for those found guilty under this law. The government has stated that it will not enforce this section of the Penal Code, but it remains as an active statute. The government permits events that openly champion LGBTI+ issues on a limited basis, but new regulations restrict foreign involvement. LGBTI+ individuals may have difficulty gaining employment in certain sectors of the civil service. The Ministry of Manpower does not issue dependent passes (work permits) to partners in lesbian and gay relationships, even if legally married in another country. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Singapore has established a comprehensive code of standards for barrier-free accessibility, including facilities for persons with physical disabilities, in all new buildings and has mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and implementing programs and services in the disability sector. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 22, and strictly enforces universal national service for all male citizens and permanent residents.

The Singapore government continued to ban Jehovah’s Witness and the Unification Church. All written materials published by the International Bible Students Association and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, publishing arms of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are likewise banned. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Drug-related Crimes

Even minor drug use/possession will result steep fines and imprisonment. Despite strict laws with severe punishment, one can find drugs in Singapore. Methamphetamines, new psychoactive substances, and cannabis are the top three categories of drugs abused in Singapore. The number of drug arrests in Singapore in 2019 increased slightly by 2%. There was an 8% increase in 2019 in the number of new drug abuser arrests, 61% of those arrested being under the age of 30. Visitors should be aware of the severe penalties for narcotics trafficking, up to and including the death penalty and caning for even a small amount of drugs. If the police have reason to believe an individual has consumed drugs, they have the right to subject the person to a urine test and/or hair test. Failure to provide a urine or hair specimen will result in a fine or imprisonment or both.

Incidents of victims unknowingly ingesting a drug that has been placed in their drink occasionally occur. Individuals who decide to frequent bars and nightclubs should exercise vigilance with their drinks and should not accept drinks from strangers.

It is also illegal to possess, purchase and use vaporizers in Singapore. This includes e-cigarettes, e-pipes, and e-cigars. Persons found guilty can receive fines of up to SGD $2,000. Importing vaporizers through online shopping or other means can carry steeper penalties, to include imprisonment for up to 12 months.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings are uncommon. There have only been three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 13 years; authorities arrested and jailed for life all perpetrators. The last kidnapping for ransom occurred in 2014, involving the mother of the CEO of a popular supermarket chain. The victim was released unharmed, and authorities recovered the ransom. The two suspects were convicted and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Kidnapping scams, in which a perpetrator calls a victim and advises him/her that a member of the family has been kidnapped and will be harmed unless a ransom is paid, may be more likely to occur than actual kidnappings. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Police Response

The emergency line in SINGAPORE is 999. Every district has a dedicated neighborhood police center. Any neighborhood police center, not just the district where the crime took place, will generally accept the filing of a police report. The police response to crime is professional and effective. Authorities routinely hold passports and prevent the departure of people who are under police investigation for criminal charges.

Orchard Road Shopping District Police: + (65) 6733-0000

Central Business District Police: + (65) 6334-0000

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) stresses the role of the private sector and the general public in effectively fighting both crime and terrorism. The SPF has established many outreach initiatives to help the average citizen report crimes. A decrease in the number of motor vehicle-related thefts, for example, may be partly attributed to the Police Vehicle on Watch (VOW) project which utilizes the more than 10,000 private vehicles in over 800 car parks across Singapore serve as additional “eyes,” deterring crime, recording incidents, and providing crucial leads for police investigations. Additionally, police use the Police@SG mobile application and the online platform I-Witness to allow the public to report information about criminal activity. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

To counter the growing trend of scams, the SPF launched the “Let’s Fight Scams” campaign, disseminated scam crime advisories to all Singapore households, and worked with key stakeholders in the community in extending outreach efforts to educate the public against scams.

U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask police or prison officials to immediately notify the U.S. Embassy. Find more information on the U.S. Embassy webpage. Authorities typically handle reports involving police harassment promptly and in accordance with the prescribed regulations.

Medical Emergencies

Healthcare services are first-rate. Private citizens from around the world travel to Singapore for medical treatment. Most doctors and hospital staff speak fluent English. Most hospitals have medical centers with doctors practicing a wide variety of specialties.

In the event of medical emergency, dial 995. Ambulance services are available across Singapore, though response times may vary.

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Singapore is considered a preferred regional medical evacuation destination by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. private sector. Air ambulance services providing evacuation services from Singapore are typically not required.

Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate, up-front payment for health services by credit card or cash. U.S. health insurance is generally not accepted. Providers may require a substantial deposit before admitting patients for any major medical treatment. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Singapore sees outbreaks of common mosquito transmitted illnesses such as Dengue Fever. Travelers have minimal risk from malaria; prophylactic Malaria medications are not currently recommended. There are sporadic cases of Zika Virus reported in Singapore. Air pollution from forest fires in neighboring countries occurs intermittently, usually between July and October. Singapore’s National Environmental Agency’s Haze provides public updates on conditions.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Singapore. Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad

OSAC Country Council Information

The OSAC Singapore Country Council is active and robust, as Singapore is the regional hub for many U.S.-based organizations with operations throughout Southeast Asia. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Asia-Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

27 Napier Road, Singapore 258508

Hours: Mon-Fri, 0830-1200; Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri, 1330-1500

Website: http://sg.usembassy.gov

Embassy Operator and after hour emergencies: + (65) 6476-9100

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

OSAC Risk Matrix

OSAC Travelers Toolkit

State Department Traveler’s Checklist

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

 

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