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: Exercise normal precautions.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Singapore does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
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.
Please review OSAC’s Singapore-specific 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.
U.S. companies assigning personnel to Singapore are advised to conduct security and cultural awareness training for their employees and accompanying family members.
Singapore continues to enjoy one of the lowest rates of crime in the world. With the exception of crimes that occur in housing developments, crime is generally non-confrontational and non-violent. The most common crimes are typically crimes of opportunity (purse snatching, pickpocketing, and the theft of unattended property).
Violent crimes are rare. If a weapon is involved, it is likely an edged weapon (a knife or box cutter); firearms are strictly controlled and the punishment for possessing them is severe. In what appears to be an isolated and unusual incident, one U.S. citizen was the victim of an unprovoked, late-night assault in 2016 that resulted in his death.
In 2017, the overall crime rate decreased 1%, with seven categories of crime falling to a new low. The improvement is largely attributed to decreases in two classes of crime: “violent/serious property crimes” (down 12.4%) and “theft and related crimes” (down 4.4%). Both of these types of crimes are at an all-time low. Singapore was proud to announce a period of 167 crime-free days in 2017 without any reports of snatch theft, robbery, or house break-ins. In 2017, there were 1,566 cases involving “Outrage of Modesty,” or rude/inappropriate behavior (up 22.2%). Notably, there was a sharp increase in reports of these crimes being committed on public transportation (up 60.5%) and at entertainment venues (up 33.8%).
Although Geylang and certain lower-cost government housing areas suffer from more serious crimes (mugging, loan sharking, and illicit drug use), the rate is still relatively lower than comparable areas in the U.S. Geylang is a known “red light” district, harboring prostitutes and reportedly enduring 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 island-wide network of police cameras has been helpful in fighting crime. To date, Singapore police have installed over 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 through the use of a large network of police cameras. Over the next few years, cameras will be progressively installed in 2,500 locations across the country.
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. To date, cameras in more than 9,000 private vehicles in over 800 car parks across Singapore serve as additional “eyes,” deterring crime, recording incidents, and providing crucial leads for police investigations.
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. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”
More than one-fifth of organizations in Singapore experienced some form of economic crime in 2017. The top economic crimes in Singapore for 2016 were cybercrime, asset misappropriation, procurement fraud, money laundering, bribery, and corruption. Organized crime syndicates have used methods including unauthorized access to company servers, hacking of online banking accounts, and business email compromise. Over 60 command and control servers were detected in Singapore’s cyber space in 2017. There is evidence that conventional crimes like prostitution, gambling, and extortion are moving into cyberspace.
Cyber extortion cases decreased from 2016, perhaps due to Singapore’s many anti-scam public education initiatives. www.scamalert.sg provides information on the latest scams and allows the public to share their experiences with others. Scams can also be reported to the Anti-Scam Helpline at: 1-800-722-6688.
Credit-for-sex scams are scams in which men 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 decreased by 46.3% to 418 cases in 2017, down from 778 cases in 2016. The total scammed amount fell to around US$1 million in 2017, from around US$1.7 million in 2016.
Internet love scams – in which victims transfer money to strangers who they befriend/fall in love with online – continue to increase yearly and rose by more than 29.9% in 2017. The 835 reported cases in 2017 represent the highest number of incidents to date and resulted in approximately US$37 million in loses. The largest known amount defrauded in a single case in 2017 was roughly US$6 million.
Although E-commerce scam cases decreased by 8.4% to 1,961 cases in 2017, from 2,140 cases in 2016, they remain a concern due to the high number of reported cases. The total amount cheated decreased slightly to $1.4 million in 2017, from $1.5 million in 2016. The largest amount cheated in a single case in 2017 was close to $60,700.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
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 4-6 lane expressways spanning the island. 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.
For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
As a result of the government’s significant emphasis on promoting public transportation, Singapore offers a wide variety of publicly accessible forms of transit (bus, rail, taxi, and increasingly, ride-share services). At least half of Singapore’s population utilizes public transportation, with about 5.4 million trips made each day.
Singapore's public transportation system includes Light Rail Transit (LRT), Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and buses. The MRT network encompasses 170.7 kilometers (106.1 miles) of track, with 102 stations in operation. 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 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.
For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”
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 64 million passengers each year and has been voted number one in terms of customer satisfaction for several years running.
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
Singapore remains relatively free from civil unrest, political instability, and 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.
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.
While the threat of indigenous terrorism remains relatively low, authorities are concerned that returning foreign terrorist fighters and self-radicalized individuals from neighboring countries might attempt to travel to Singapore to conduct an attack.
Singaporean officials frequently emphasize the importance of community involvement and preparedness as a critical element in national security.
In September 2016, the government launched a mobile app called SGSecure to better prepare the community against the threat of terrorism. The app allows members of the public to receive alerts during terrorist attacks or other emergencies, to send information to the authorities, and to download information on counter-terrorism.
Following the launch of SGSecure, Singapore’s Home Team has been training local communities to help prevent and respond to a terrorist attack. Eight Emergency Preparedness (EP) days have been held to prepare the public for a terror attack, including the 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 being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Singapore has one of the most stable governments in the world. The government is generally 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.
Singapore’s government as defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore is legislated by an executive branch consisting of the president and the cabinet. Although the president acts in his/her personal discretion in the exercise of certain functions as a check on the cabinet and parliament, this role is largely ceremonial. The cabinet, composed of the prime minister and other ministers appointed on the advice of the president, generally directs and controls the government. The cabinet is formed by the political party that gains a simple majority in each general election.
The incumbent 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. Observers considered the national elections in September 2015, which included eight opposition parties, as open and free.
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 April 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 anyone at Speakers’ Corner could be considered part of an event. Penalties may be severe, including large fines and/or imprisonment.
Singapore has not experienced significant natural disasters in recent years.
In September-October 2015, a thick haze from burning brush in Indonesian Sumatra covered much of the island, elevating health risks for certain segments of the population prone to respiratory problems and disrupting business and international flights.
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, Singapore was ranked as the sixth least corrupt country in the world by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. There is a special agency called CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) in Singapore charged with investigating and prosecuting corruption.
Personal Identity Concerns
Rude and disorderly behavior – particularly when directed toward women – is strictly prohibited. Rules against such behavior, known as “Outrage of Modesty,” are firmly enforced and carry severe penalties to include caning and imprisonment.
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 on the statute books. The government issues permits for open air events that openly champion LGBTI issues on a limited basis, but new regulations restrict foreign involvement.
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.
Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 22 and strictly enforces universal national service for all male citizens and permanent residents.
Even minor drug use/possession will result in imprisonment. Despite strict laws with severe punishment, drugs can be found in Singapore. Visitors should be aware of the severe penalties for narcotics trafficking, up to and including the death penalty and caning for even the small distribution of drugs.
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.
Kidnappings are uncommon. There have only been three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 12 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and jailed for life.
The last kidnapping for ransom occurred in January 2014, when the CEO of a popular supermarket chain received a call from a stranger who demanded S$20 million in ransom for the return of his elderly mother. He negotiated the ransom down to S$2 million and under instructions from the kidnappers, placed the ransom in one of his mother’s designer bags and dropped it off at a local park. The victim was released at a nearby bus stop a few hours later. Police subsequently arrested two kidnappers and 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.
The police response to crime is generally considered professional and effective.
Authorities routinely hold passports and prevent the departure of people who are under police investigation for criminal charges.
The online platform i-Witness allows individuals to provide information about criminal activity to the police. Through this platform, the police have received 6,400 submissions since it began in April 2016.
One area of concern is the emergence of criminals impersonating Chinese officials in order to scam the Chinese-speaking community. Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department has worked closely with partners like China’s Ministry of Public Security to identify and dismantle new criminal syndicates targeting the Chinese community. In 2016, there were 501 cases involving this type of scam, with victims losing approximately US$23 million. In 2017, there were 186 reported cases (down 62.9%), with the total loss totaling approximately US$12.5 million.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. More information can be found on the U.S. Embassy webpage. Reports involving police harassment are typically handled promptly and in accordance with the prescribed regulations.
Crime Victim Assistance
Individuals requiring police assistance should dial 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.
Orchard Road Shopping District Police: + (65) 6733-0000
Central Business District Police: + (65) 6334-0000
Healthcare services are generally considered first-rate, and 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.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
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. A substantial deposit may be required before admitting patients for any major medical treatment. See Consular Affair’s webpage for information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Singapore occasionally experiences outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted illnesses.
Air pollution and haze may occur doing the summer months.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Singapore.
OSAC Country Council Information
The OSAC Singapore Country Council is very active. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
27 Napier Road
Hours: Mon-Fri, 0830-1200; Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri, 1330-1500
Embassy Contact Numbers
Switchboard: + (65) 6476-9100 (includes after-hour emergencies)
U.S. citizens traveling to Singapore should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.
Singapore Country Information Sheet