COMMUNITY POLICING IN THE CONTEXT OF SINGAPORE Jarmal Singh*
I. INTRODUCTION Singapore has grown in many ways over the last 40 years to become a city-state that enjoys a high level of economic growth, political stability and most importantly, a sense of safety and security. It was not a smooth journey, as the country experienced its turbulent periods in the 1950s and the 1960s, characterised by problems of political instability, communist insurgency, secret societies, unemployment and communal riots. Today, Singapore’s crime rate is low by international standards and has declined successively for 9 years from 1989 till 1997. Crime rate has only edged up slightly by 5.2% in 1998 when the entire South East Asia region plunged into financial and economic crisis. The rise was mostly attributed to theft of handphones and cash cards, and immigration offences. Amidst the rapid modernisation of society, much of the transformation from the old crime-ridden town to a safe city today can be attributed to the Singaporean government’s tough stance towards criminals and criminality in the form of strict laws and heavy penalties. Apart from the strict laws and rigorous enforcement, the improvement of the social and economic situation helped to control crime. Over the past 15 years, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has made two significant innovations in the area of policing in light of social and economic changes. The first being the introduction
* Deputy Director Operations, Police Headquarters, Singapore Police Force, Republic of Singapore.
of a community-based policing strategy through the Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system in 1983 and the shift towards community-focused policing through the creation of Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPCs) in 1997. Prior to 1983, policing strategies were reactive in nature. Police services were dispensed centrally, mainly through the 8 police stations existing at the time. Each police station served a