Singapore 2015 Crime and Safety Report
Transportation Security; Stolen items; Theft; Drug Trafficking; Religious Terrorism
East Asia & Pacific > Singapore; East Asia & Pacific > Singapore > Singapore
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Crime Rating: Low
Singapore continues to enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Crime has fallen in each of the past four years. 2014 had the lowest recorded crime rate in more than two decades. Singapore is number 5 out of 176 countries on the list of least corrupt countries in the world.
With the exception of crimes occurring in housing developments – generally between family members and/or neighbors – crime is generally non-confrontational and non-violent. Criminal acts are usually crimes of opportunity (purse snatching, pickpocketing, or thefts of unattended property).
Violent crimes are rare. If a weapon is involved, it is likely an edged weapon (knife or box cutter), as firearms are strictly controlled, and the punishment is severe.
While organized criminal groups exist, their strength remains unclear, and it is believed that they focus on crimes such as prostitution, loan-sharking, and narcotics trafficking and rarely target foreigners. In the first half of 2014, there was a marked decline of 31.6 present in unlicensed moneylending cases and a 57 present decline in harassment cases with damage to property.
Areas of Concern
Specific areas – Geylang and lower-cost government housing – suffer from more serious crimes (muggings, loan sharking, and illicit drug use) although not on the scale of a similar sized U.S. city. Geylang is also a known “red light” district, harboring prostitutes and reportedly enduring an increase in organized criminal gangs. Prostitution is legal, but various prostitution-related activities are not. This includes public solicitation, under-age prostitution, pimping, living on the earnings of a prostitute, and maintaining a brothel. In practice, the police are believed to unofficially tolerate and monitor a limited number of brothels.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Singapore is a right-hand drive nation with first-world road conditions, which includes well-illuminated, well-paved, English language thoroughfares and 4-6 lane expressways spanning the island. Traffic and driving can be a bit more hectic than typical American driving, with drivers seemingly occupying two lanes at once and motorcycles darting from lane to lane between cars, but traffic accidents appear surprisingly rare. Drivers should be cautious, as police enforce speeding violations, and speed cameras are prevalent. Drivers should also recognize the difficulty posed by frequent, sometimes heavy rain downpours that can dump several inches of water on the roads in minutes.
Public Transportation Conditions
Public transport covers a variety of transport modes (bus, rail, and taxi) as a result of the great emphasis by the government to promote its use over private transport. About 5.4 million trips are made on a daily basis on the public transport system and at least half of its population utilizes it daily.
Singapore's public transport system has been reliant largely on buses, until the opening of the first section of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in 1987. 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. The MRT network consists of five main lines, for a total network length of 153.2 km (95.19 mi) and with 104 stations. 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 have been operational since December 22, 2013, and are run by SBS Transit.
Singapore Changi Airport, 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. With the opening of the third terminal, Changi handles 64 million passengers every year.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The government is defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to mean the Executive branch of government, which is made up of the president and the cabinet. Although the president acts in his personal discretion in the exercise of certain functions as a check on the cabinet and parliament, his role is largely ceremonial. It is the cabinet, composed of the prime minister and other ministers appointed on his advice by the president that generally directs and controls the government. The cabinet is formed by the political party that gains a simple majority in each general election. 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 (the most recent in 2011) and has formed the cabinet since 1959. The government is generally competent in managing the country's economy and largely free from political corruption. On the other hand, it has been criticized for using unfair election tactics and violating freedom of speech, although the national elections in May and August 2011 were free, fair, and competitive and seen by many as the best in the nation’s history.
Political Violence Rating: Low
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Singapore remains relatively free from civil unrest, political instability, and credible terrorism threats. The government frequently cautions its citizens that while a Jema’ah Islamiah (JI) cell has been severely disrupted, it has not been eradicated. Over the last decade, JI cells have been disrupted in the midst of preparations to attack the U.S. Embassy, the American Club, the Singapore American School, and other locations associated with the U.S. The head of JI in Singapore and Singapore’s most wanted terrorist, Mas Selamat Kastari, escaped from prison in early 2008 and was captured over a year later in Malaysia, raising fears of a possible support network existing in or near Singapore. Local press express concerns that home-grown, self-radicalized terrorists may become a security issue. Recently, the government reported that several Singaporean citizens went to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In part to counter these concerns, the government has continued to make use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which grants it the authority to arrest and detain individuals without trial for up to two years in certain circumstances, against individuals suspected of potential involvement in terrorism.
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 effectively fighting both crime and terrorism.
Terrorism Rating: Low
Demonstrations or protests are rare even though the law allows for permits of assembly to be granted. The reality is that permits are generally not issued for any potential demonstration or gathering. There has only been one incident of violent civil unrest in the last 40 years. In December 2013, about 400 Bangladeshi and Indian guest workers rioted in Little India district after a co-worker was struck and killed by a private bus. In two hours of violence, rioters destroyed or damaged 25 emergency vehicles and injured 39 police officers. In response, Singapore deported 52 foreign workers and another 28 foreign workers received multiple strokes with a rattan cane and are serving multi-year jail sentences.
Singapore has not experienced natural disasters (typhoons, tsunamis, or earthquakes) recently. Singapore was largely sheltered from the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. In June 2013, 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 disrupted business and international flights.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Industrial and transportation accidents have decreased in 2014 with most deaths occurring in construction, engineering, or maritime industries. Singapore’s worst accident on record remains the 1978 explosion aboard the Greek tanker Spyros as it sat in the Jurong shipyard. The explosion and subsequent fires resulted in 78 deaths.
Despite severe laws, drugs can still be found, and 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 – where an individual calls a family and advises them that a member of the family has been kidnapped and will be harmed unless a ransom is paid – are more common.
There have only been three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the last 11 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and jailed for life. The last kidnapping for ransom occurred in January 10, 2014; 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.
Police response to crime incidents is professional and generally effective. The police are professional. U.S. companies assigning personnel to Singapore should conduct security and cultural awareness training for their employees and accompanying family members. Rude and disorderly behavior, particularly directed against women, is prohibited. Inappropriate behavior classified as “Outrage of Modesty,” is strictly enforced and carry severe penalties to include caning and imprisonment. Visitors should be knowledgeable of the severe penalties for narcotics trafficking, up to and including the death penalty.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Any report involving police harassment is handled promptly and in accordance with the prescribed regulations.
Crime Victim Assistance
Police assistance can be readily obtained by dialing 999. Every district in Singapore has a dedicated neighborhood police center, and any neighborhood police center, not just the district where the crime took place, will accept the filing of a police report. After-the-fact reports of crimes can be completed and submitted online.
Orchard Road Shopping District Police: (65) 6733-0000
Central Business District Police: +(65) 6334-0000
Medical services are on par or better with those of the U.S. and other “first world” capitals. Ambulatory services are available island-wide (although response times vary), and hospitals specialize in cardiology, oncology, or treating burn victims. Individuals should call 995 in the event of a medical emergency.
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
Singapore is a Department of State regional medical evacuation destination, and private citizens from the Middle East, Africa and Asia often travel to Singapore for medical treatment. Air ambulance services are not necessary or offered in Singapore.
Recommended Insurance Posture
It is also recommend you purchase travel medical insurance to cover unexpected medical emergencies.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For specific vaccination and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/singapore.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Situational Awareness Best Practices
The Embassy notes that “low” crime does not mean no crime, and individuals should still take common sense precautions to avoid being victimized. Visitors should exercise the same level of caution they would in any large city regarding their personal safety and security.
Avoid carrying excess cash and credit cards, and only use credit cards at reputable establishments. After using a credit card, check your receipts to ensure that only proper charges have been levied against your account, confirming these with your monthly statement.
Always remain alert in crowded, public areas (hotel lobbies, subway stations, shopping centers or other tourist areas) where pickpocket or other petty crimes often occur. Do not leave valuables in plain sight.
While staying in hotels, always use hotel safe deposit boxes or in-room safes to secure your valuables, and never leave personal or financial information unattended. Additionally, valuables should never be left unattended in hotel rooms or in plain sight in vehicles.For fire safety, learn escape routes from your hotel room immediately upon checking-in.
Prudent measures should continue to be taken by businesses, schools, churches, and other locations where Americans assemble. Travelers should be vigilant when using public conveyances (buses, subways, trains, planes, and ferries). Individuals should be especially alert in crowded buses, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, streets, markets and night clubs. Heed all warnings with regard to soft targets and potential terrorist threats. Know how to contact local emergency services for police, fire, and medical personnel.
If you are the victim of a crime, file a police report. he police must know that a crime has occurred in order to solve it and/or be more responsive to future problems.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
27 Napier Road
Business hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-12pm; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 1:30pm-3:00pm
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy Switchboard: +(65) 6476-9100 (Same contact number for after-hours emergency)
Fax: +(65) 6476-9232
American Citizen Services (ACS): +(65) 6476-9321 / 9251 / 9258
American visitors should register with the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section for security and travel updates. Travel advisories, country background notes, and links to other U.S. government travel and security services are also available on the Internet.
OSAC Country Council Information
Embassy Singapore has a very active OSAC Country Council chapter with over 300 members. For specific information, please contact the Regional Security Office: at SingaporeRSO@state.gov or +(65) 6476-9284. One of the best sources for overseas security information is OSAC.gov. To reach the OSAC East Asia Pacific team, please email OSACEAP@state.gov.