Once a month, about 30 members from Queenstown Mei Ling Zone Residents’ Committee take turns to patrol the surrounding public areas in their neighbourhood under the voluntary Citizens on Patrol (COP) initiative.
Since mid-August, a handful of them – including an 80-year-old volunteer – have also signed on for a pilot programme under the initiative to patrol within Queenstown MRT station, as part of the police’s efforts to guard against offences, such as molestation, committed on public transport nodes.
Mid-year crime statistics released by the police on Thursday (23 August) showed a 21.5 per cent increase in outrage of modesty (OM) cases to 832 cases from January to June this year, an increase from the 685 cases seen over the same period last year.
Out of this year’s OM cases covered in the police’s report, 105 were committed on public transport nodes – marking a 43.8 per cent rise from the 73 cases in the first half of last year.
Wearing their prominent dark blue vests and accompanied by two Public Transport Security Command (TransCom) police officers, a group of seven to eight COP volunteers patrol within the station’s concourse and beyond the gantry.
Each patrol lasts about an hour, typically from 8pm to 9pm. The volunteers would introduce themselves as they approach commuters and distribute pamphlets with information on OM and scams.
Homemaker Chua Mei Ting, 35, who has been a Queenstown RC member and COP volunteer for a year, told Yahoo News Singapore last Friday (17 August) that the heavier foot traffic at the MRT station allows volunteers to better “target” possible victims of crimes, such as young women and the elderly.
For instance, she estimated that she approached about 40 commuters during her first patrol last Monday.
“When we patrol at void decks, the outreach is quite limited, especially at night after 8pm. At the train station, we get crowds of people walking out when they alight and the dissemination of the information is much broader,” said the former banker who is married with two children.
This also meant that volunteers will not only be educating residents living in Queenstown.
“(Commuters) might not also be necessarily residents of this place, especially at the train platform where people are boarding,” she added.
Long-time fellow volunteer Lucy Toh, 80, hopes to educate more elderly by reaching out to the younger commuters at the MRT station.
“The children can bring the leaflets home to educate their parents who are unaware of such crimes,” said the qigong instructor in Mandarin.
Introduced in 1999, the COP initiative was set up with the aim of partnering residents and the police in patrol duties within their neighbourhoods and communities.
Typically, volunteers – who sign up via the Home Team Volunteer Network or during Neighbourhood Police Centre roadshows – are trained about twice a year by the police and also briefed on crime matters prior to their patrols.
Superintendent Alan Wong Lek Koon, head of operations of public transport security command, said patrols at MRT stations will “augment police’s efforts to reduce crime” at such places.
“(COP members) will look out for suspicious persons and activities at the MRT stations and help keep the public transport system safe,” said Superintendent Wong.
The police said that they will partner with more than 700 COP groups islandwide to roll out the programme to other MRT stations by end of the year. A police spokesperson declined to reveal the total number of COP volunteers.
When asked by Yahoo News Singapore, the spokesperson said that while the police may explore the possibility of getting the COP volunteers to patrol trains in the future, they are focused on bringing other MRT stations under the programme for now.
The police are also looking into getting the volunteers to patrol MRT stations during the morning peak period.
Eveline Sandra, 23, who was approached at the Queenstown MRT station by a COP volunteer, called it a good initiative.
The digital marketing executive, who travels to the area once a week for church activities, said, “It creates more awareness of such crimes and that these things actually happen.”