Monday, April 15, 2013

You know things are bad when criminals dont look like criminals start looting Singapore..

Commuters and pedestrians on Singapore roads would undoubtedly have noticed an increase in the number of signs erected by the Singapore Police notifying people of the existence of house break-ins in the area. With this in mind, an article in the Straits Times on 31st March 2013 caught my eye ("Colombian crooks' hunting ground"), which highlighted an increase in housebreaking activity by Colombian crooks in Singapore and of the arrest of the perpetrators.

South American criminals are apparently willing to pay up to USD3,000 for an air ticket to fly to Singapore to have a chance of breaking in to Singapore homes; and were attracted to this country specifically because of our reputation for being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and for Singapore homes being classified as soft targets and a "thieves paradise". As it happens, there have been several previous incidences of South American criminal activity in the past. In the last year alone - several Colombian, Guatemalan and Chilean men have also been captured and jailed for theft.

While Singapore residents must certainly step up efforts to secure their own homes as suggested by the article, and the Singapore Police and neighborhood watch organizations should definitely increase their vigilance, the fact that these crooks have the ability to blend into their surroundings as their "Caucasian looks help them pass off as expatriate residents and they blend in by wearing T-shirts and bermudas" also means that we should step up measures to screen visitors to our island.

Although travel publications frequently praise the immigration procedures in Changi Airport for being the best in the world in terms of speediness and convenience to travellers, I often wonder if this efficiency also translates to it being easier for crimimals to enter Singapore. For example, those Singapore residents who use the automated clearance system at Changi Airport have to scan a thumbprint to verify their identity in addition to scanning their passports each time they leave or enter the country. Do non-residents have to do this as well and if not, why shouldn't they have to do so if it increases the strength of our visitor screening process? These measures together with others that I have observed in place in neighboring countries, such as the use of cameras to record a person's face during immigration entry, should be considered to lessen the probability of criminals being able to enter Singapore while posing as tourists.