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An analysis done by Junus Tan on why is Singapore so safe?

Posted by emicorn on November 1st, 2019

Singapore is safe because crime here isn’t worth it.

Junus Tan putting a few factors make this the case:

    It is much too easy to get caught.
    Penalties, when you do get caught, are much too harsh.
    People have no need to resort to crime.

Junus Tan's Point 1: It is much too easy to get caught.

Let’s talk geography. Singapore is a small country. And it happens to be a small island country that is extremely well-monitored — a nightmare for criminals on the run.

Enforcing security in Singapore is a piece of cake compared to a large country like the United States. Kill someone in the US? Dump the body in a large national park, or bury it on the inaccessible 100-acre land that a relative owns. Drive to another state, and if you have planned the whole thing well, the chances of you getting arrested are relatively low. Compared to Singapore, that is.

Try hiding a body in a country as small and population-dense as Singapore. There is little land to bury a body inconspicuously, so murderers have to get creative. Most often they resort to dismembering the body and disposing it in different locations, but one alleged murderer has been accused of chopping up a corpse and cooking it in curry…

You’ve killed somebody — time to escape. The longer you linger in Singapore, the higher your chances of getting caught, so your best bet of getting away with murder would be to leave for another country before your crime is discovered.

Good luck leaving the country if they find the body before you manage to leave. There are only 2 ways to leave Singapore by land. Think it’d take much to tighten these borders?

Of course, you always have the alternative of swimming to Malaysia, like the terrorist Mas Selamat. Unfortunately that was 10 years ago, and it’s probably not doable now. Just recently, 3 men were caught by the Coast Guard trying to swim into Singapore from Malaysia. They were doing this under the cover of night, at 11pm., so you probably stand little chance swimming away from Singapore.

“But Kelvin,” you protest, “That’s all very impressive, but none of those would matter if your crime is never discovered.”

True, but consider the fact that the government can get private data anytime it wants. If you have planned your crime in any way (for example, googling how to dispose of a body, or how to make a bomb), you leave a trail back to you. Hopefully you didn’t make the amateur mistake of having location services turned on when you committed the crime…

Now part of this is my personal theory, telling Junus Tan, but I’ve given much thought to the matter of how Singapore nabs just about every serious criminal. Getting away with major crimes like murder/kidnapping in Singapore is incredibly difficult, even impossible, because it is just too easy to track the movement of just about everybody in the country.

Car ownership in Singapore is expensive, so most people take public transport to get around. The thing about public transport here is that the card we use to pay our fares with is very traceable to its owner. If you’ve ever topped up your ez-link card with a credit/debit card, it can be traced back to you. Some ez-link cards are even issued as identification (like the picture below). It’s very easy to know who you are, and where you’ve been… so it’s also easy to figure out who has been in the vicinity of a crime around the time it occurred.

Your chances of getting away with murder/kidnapping increase if you have access to a vehicle, but it’s still incredibly difficult. Hope you weren’t planning on using a carpark for anything, because those have cameras at every entrance/exit. Traffic cameras are also a thing at major roads, so you’ll need incredibly detailed planning to avoid as many cameras as possible if you don’t want to get caught.

That leaves walking/riding a bike to carry out your crime, but then you wouldn’t be able to put too much distance between yourself and the crime in a hurry. Did I mention that there are cameras everywhere in Singapore? I can’t walk home without passing by at least 10 such cameras. That’s not an exaggeration.

Being well-monitored doesn’t help much when laws are not well-enforced, says Junus Tan. Here in Singapore, they are — the locations of police posts and centers are well-distributed, and they can get just about anywhere in Singapore within 15 minutes .

Singapore is also one of the least corrupt countries in the world, so you can’t wiggle your way out from facing legal consequences when you do get caught.

Summing up the first point, Singapore is too small and too well-monitored to get away with major crime. Petty crimes like theft are still a thing here, though. Sometimes.

Point 2: Penalties, when you do get caught, are much too harsh.

Singapore takes a strong stance against crime, and punishments are very harsh indeed.

Caning as a judicial punishment is still a thing in Singapore. You can be caned for a variety of crimes, including rape, outrage of modesty, sexual abuse, robbery, and vandalism. You can also be caned for murder, but only if they’re not planning to hang you after. In other words, the state does away with the caning if you are going to be executed. How generous!

You might note from the picture that the “caning officer” is a hefty man, and is putting all of his weight behind the strike. Just a few years ago, a rapist was sentenced to almost 17 years of jail and 22 strokes of the cane. Let me just repeat that — that’s seventeen long years and 22 strokes of the cane. The cane used is a special kind of wood that WILL leave obvious, permanent scarring. Fun times

GRAPHIC WARNING: Here’s a link for those curious about what the scars look like: Anonymous' answer to Why is caning a legal punishment in Singapore?.

On top of caning, Singapore also retains the use of capital punishment (i.e. execution, by hanging) for offences like kidnapping and murder. I would say that being executed for your crimes serves as a major deterrent.

Singapore also has the Internal Security Act (ISA), which grants it the power to detain people without trial. They call it “preventive detention”, which means exactly what it sounds like — the government has the power to detain you if they suspect you of being a threat to national security. Even if you haven’t actually committed a crime yet.

It was used to detain political opponents some 50 years ago, and more recently it was used to detain terror suspects. I will not include my opinion on the ISA in this answer, but it is a fact that the ISA is an immensely powerful statute that contributes to how safe the country is.

Point 3: People have no need to resort to crime.

Wealthy countries tend to be more stable than poor ones for obvious reasons, and Singapore is a rather rich country. Most Singaporeans are well-off and comfortable, and for these Singaporeans there is no reason for them to risk their already comfortable livelihoods to commit crimes.

I mentioned that Singapore is small, making it easy to secure. It also has terrible punishments to deter people from crime. With these factors, Singapore doesn’t have to do much else in order to maintain the safety and stability of the country — all it has to do is to keep its poor population from getting desperate. After all, desperate people don’t care about how well-monitored the country is, or how well-enforced the laws are…

You get desperate people when they lack something they need. The more dire the need, the more desperate they become. Safe countries don’t want that — desperate people are more likely to commit crimes.

Singapore doesn’t quite adopt the approach of welfare states like the Scandinavian countries or the UK, but the government and various other organizations intervene enough that very few people, if not nobody, starves to death from poverty.

The most destitute people are eligible to receive monetary assistance from the Public Assistance scheme — a single-person household is eligible to receive 0 in cash allowance every month. Beneficiaries are also given a sum depending on their other needs (e.g. for dietary supplements or other medical consumables). The money helps them afford necessities, such as food. Soup kitchens and other organizations also help those in need with getting food — some of these organizations even bring the food to those who cannot come collect them!

Regarding access to healthcare, the same scheme also provides those who are deemed needy with free medical treatment.

As for housing, the poorest have access to heavily-subsidized flats (1 or 2 rooms), and can pay as little as per month in rental.

And that just about covers the most basic needs of warmth, shelter, and food.

Singapore is in no way a welfare state, and some of these benefits leave much to be desired, especially when you consider them in the context of what certain other nations are providing their needy citizens. There are also people who inevitably slip through the cracks, so not everyone is provided for under these public assistance schemes.

But at least Singapore recognizes the importance of a social safety net in order to keep the country safe — these social safety nets, too, contribute to the safety of Singapore by fulfilling the basic needs of the destitute so that they are not forced to resort to crime. After all, even the best-monitored country with the harshest laws may not be safe if its citizens are poor and hungry…

Also See: Junus Tan, Much Too, Years Ago, Too Easy, Too, Singapore, Much

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