Volunteer patrols at MRT stations to discourage abuse, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories

In the midst of more reports of cases of molestation in public transport, volunteers will soon patrol train stations to help prevent such crimes.

The Singapore police have launched a plan for volunteers from the community program Citizens On Patrol (COP) to patrol alongside the areas where they usually reside in train stations, such as emptiness decks and parks.

The volunteers, usually in groups of seven, will help the police to look for suspicious persons and distribute pamphlets on crime prevention at the train stations.

This step is because the cases of molestation in public transport increased by 43.8 percent in the first half of this year to 105 cases, compared with 73 cases in the same period last year, according to the statistics released yesterday by the police on the crime halfway through the year.

"With more people helping us to oversee this, this absolutely serves as an additional deterrent, because the police can not be ubiquitous in all MRT stations," said police inspector Alan Wong, head of operations for the security command of public transport. "Even though the presence of the COP group is only once a month, but if you look at it on the entire island, the presence in MRT stations is considerably larger if we do that," he said.

To begin with, volunteers will be accompanied by police officers during their patrols at MRT stations and they will walk along the platforms or around the bridge sections, Supt Wong said.

On 13 August a pilot was carried out by a COP group from the Wooncomité Mei Ling Zone in Queenstown. There are plans to roll out the more than 700 COP groups across the island to patrols.

Volunteers with whom the Straits Times spoke supported the plan and said that the COP groups could reach more residents, given the higher number of visitors at train stations.

Volunteers could also choose the right people to approach, said volunteer Chua Mei Ting, 35. The housewife was part of the group of volunteers in the pilot run at Queenstown MRT station. "For example, to prevent molestation, I will distribute more pamphlets to women," said Madam Chua.

Commuters also welcomed the new initiative. Officer Choo Hui Jia, 25, said it would be a good deterrent to have more eyes looking for possible perpetrators.

"I'm not afraid because I did not experience it, but it would be different for victims of molestation."

Apart from train stations, the police will also carry out anti-molestation efforts in night clubs. They launch a campaign to teach club-goers how to protect themselves against such crimes.

Mills at night clubs in the public spending area increased by 37 percent in the first half of this year to 63 cases, compared with 46 in the same period last year.

Some nightclubs have seen this peak at their locations.

For example, popular nightclub Zouk has seen more cases of assault this year. A spokesman said that the safety of his guests is important, and the Zouk staff will take action to minimize such incidents.

There are plans to launch this campaign at Zouk and other nightclubs in Clarke Quay, and participating stores will show crime warnings, video screenings and watch out for tipsy or drunken patrons who can easily be crime targets. Details will be released later this year.

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