Singapore’s island-wide network of police cameras has been helpful in fighting crime. Under PolCam, a multi-year public initiative that uses a large network of cameras to enhance the safety and security of neighborhoods and public spaces, the police have installed over 10,000 cameras in Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks and multi-story car parks. Police cameras will be progressively installed over the next few years at 2,500 additional locations across the country.
Exercise caution when encountering unrealistic bargains for concert tickets, apparel, hotel stays, and electronic products. Be wary of strangers who befriend you online or of offers for escort, massage, or sexual services on social media.
Cybercrime has become much more prevalent in Singapore over the past two years with incidents having risen by 43% from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, 636 reported cases of online relationship scams, the highest so far, represented a 65% increase from 385 in 2015. One area of particular concern is the emergence of a scam in which actors impersonate Chinese officials, reportedly resulting in U.S.$23 million in financial losses to victims in 2016.
Cyber extortion cases decreased by 66% from 2015, perhaps in large part due to Singapore’s many anti-scam public education initiatives that began in 2015 and are found in print and broadcast media, outdoor advertorials, and social media platforms. The website (www.scamalert.sg) was created to feature the latest scams and to allow members of the public to share their experiences. Singapore also has an Anti-Scam Helpline to report scams (tel: 1-800-722-6688). The police also have a mobile app called i-Witness, which has received 6,400 submissions since it began in April 2016.
Other Areas of Concern
Geylang and lower-cost government housing suffer from more serious crimes (muggings, loan sharking, illicit drug use), though not on the scale of similarly-sized U.S. cities. Geylang is a red light district known for prostitution and has reportedly experienced an increase in organized criminal gangs. Prostitution is legal, but a number of 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.
The areas where bars stay open late –Robertson, Clarke, Boat Quays (along the Singapore River) and the Orchard Towers complex (on Orchard Road) – represent the zones where travelers are most likely to encounter trouble, especially at night.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Singapore is a right-side drive nation with first-world road conditions, including well-illuminated, well-paved thoroughfares and 4-6 lane expressways with English signage. Traffic and driving can be a bit more hectic than 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 uncommon. Police enforce speeding violations and speed cameras are prevalent. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Drivers should also recognize the difficulty posed by frequent, sometimes heavy, rain downpours that can release several inches of water in minutes.
Public Transportation Conditions
The government promotes use of public transportation. About 5.4 million trips are made daily on public transportation, which is used by roughly half the population.
Singapore's excellent public transport system includes buses, Light Rail Transit (LRT), and the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. Although buses enjoy an average daily ridership exceeding twice 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. The MRT network encompasses 170.7 kilometers (106.1 miles) of routes, with 102 stations in operation. The North-South Line, East-West Line, and Circle Line are operated by SMRT Trains, while the North-East Line and Downtown Line are run by SBS Transit.
Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN), with its three terminals, is one of the most important air hubs in the region. The international airport is situated at the easternmost tip of the main island and serves 185 cities in 58 countries. Voted number one with air travelers for several years in a row, Changi Airport handles over 64 million passengers every year.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SINGAPORE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Although Singapore remains relatively free of credible terrorist threats, the government regularly cites terrorism as one of its top concerns. Authorities are concerned not only with home-grown extremists but also returning foreign terrorist fighters and individuals self-radicalized in neighboring countries who could travel to Singapore. A small number of Singaporean citizens have gone to Syria to join ISIS, and the Singaporean government remains extra vigilant and aware of their potential return.
Local press has expressed concerns that home-grown, self-radicalized terrorists may become a security issue. The government has made use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which grants it the authority to arrest/detain individuals suspected of potential involvement in terrorism without trial for up to two years.
Singaporean officials frequently emphasize the importance of community involvement and preparedness as a critical element in national security, as well as the importance of the private sector in fighting both crime and terrorism.
In September 2016, Singapore launched SGSecure, a mobile app designed to prepare the community against the threat of terrorism. The app, which has already been downloaded to more than 210,000 mobile devices, allows members of the public to receive alerts during terrorist attacks or other public safety emergencies, send information to the authorities, and download information on counter-terrorism.
Singapore’s Home Team has been training local communities to help prevent and deal with a terrorist attack. Eight Emergency Preparedness (EP) Days have been held to prepare residents for a terror attack and teach them life-saving skills (CPR, use of automated external defibrillator (AED)).
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED SINGAPORE AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Singapore remains relatively free of civil unrest and political instability.
Singapore has one of the most stable governments in the world, with the People’s Action Party (PAP) assuming power in an election before independence and returning to power in every general election forming every cabinet since 1959. The government is generally competent in managing the country's economy and largely free from political corruption. Observers considered the national elections in September 2015 as open and free.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, the government imposes official restrictions on these rights. The PAP has been criticized for maintaining its political dominance in part by circumscribing political discourse and action, to include restriction of opposition parties.
Although the law allows for permits of assembly, demonstrations and protests are relatively rare. Permits are generally not issued. There has only been one incident of violent civil unrest in the last 40 years.
In September-October 2015, a thick haze from burning brush in Indonesia’s Sumatra covered much of the island, elevating health risks for certain segments of the population prone to respiratory problems and disrupted business and international flights.
More than one-fifth of organizations in Singapore experienced some form of economic crime in 2016. The top economic crimes in Singapore for 2016 were cybercrime, asset misappropriation, procurement fraud, money laundering, bribery, and corruption. Singapore is ranked the fifth least corrupt country in the world. There is a special agency called CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) to investigate and to take legal actions against corruption. The powerful judicial system is globally known for its legitimacy and impartiality in law.
Personal Identity Concerns
U.S. companies assigning personnel to Singapore should conduct security and cultural awareness training for their employees and family members. Rude and disorderly behavior, particularly directed against women, is strictly prohibited. Inappropriate behavior classified as “Outrage of Modesty,” is firmly enforced and carries severe penalties (caning, imprisonment). Vandalism carries minimum sentencing that includes caning.
Visitors should be knowledgeable of the severe penalties for narcotics trafficking, up to and including the death penalty and caning for even small distribution of drugs. Even minor drug use or possession will result in imprisonment. Despite strict laws with severe punishment, drugs can still be found. Although drug-related arrests experienced a slight decrease in 2016, the number of new drug abusers has actually increased, with nearly two-thirds of all new abusers being below the age of 30. Individuals frequenting nightclubs should be particularly vigilant and remain aware of their surroundings. Incidents of individuals unknowingly ingesting a drug placed in a drink occasionally occur.
Kidnappings remain rare, although kidnapping scams – in which an individual calls a family and advises them that another member of the family has been kidnapped and will be harmed unless a ransom is paid – are more common. There have been three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 12 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and jailed for life.