Country Listing

Singapore Table of Contents


Crime and Law Enforcement

In 1984, the most recent year for which complete statistics were available on crime in Singapore, the country reported 35,728 arrests. The incidence of serious violent crime in that year was considered low and included 69 murders, 677 assaults, and 1,620 armed robberies. In comparison to the eighty-two other countries that reported criminal statistics to the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO) in 1984, Singapore had a low rate of assaults and was close to the median for three other types of crime: murder, sexual offenses, and thefts. Although Singapore did not report figures on drug arrests to the ICPO, the sale and use of illegal drugs was known to be one of the country's most serious criminal problems.

In the 1980s, police instituted several new schemes designed to reduce the time required to dispatch officers to the scene of a crime and to improve the investigation capabilities of the force. In 1983 the Neighborhood Police Force System was introduced as an experimental project in one of Singapore's police divisions. This system, based on a successful Japanese program, placed small police substations in residential neighborhoods. The police officers assigned to those stations instituted crime prevention programs through their association with community organizations, and they assisted the criminal investigation department by soliciting residents of the neighborhood for information on specific cases. By 1989 the experimental project's success led to the establishment of neighborhood police posts in all ten police divisions.

A new crime report computer network was completed in 1987 enabling officers in their patrol cars to be notified minutes after a crime had been reported. The computer network maintained a record of the call and the status of the police units dispatched to the scene of the incident. During the 1980s, police routinely took blood and urine samples from all criminal suspects to determine if there was a possible link between the use of drugs and the suspect's behavior at the time of his arrest. This program enabled police and the courts to improve procedures for dealing with drug addicts who resorted to crime to support their habit.

Any citizen indicted for a crime had the right to obtain legal counsel and to be brought to trial expeditiously, unless the government determined that the person was involved in subversion, drug trafficking, or was a member of a criminal organization. Trials were conducted by magistrates or judges without a jury, and in most cases defendants could appeal their verdicts to a higher court. The death penalty could be imposed for individuals convicted of murder, kidnapping, trafficking in arms, or importing and selling drugs; between 1975 and 1989, twenty-four prisoners were executed for various drug offenses. Mandatory beating with a cane and imprisonment were required for most serious crimes, including rape, robbery, and theft. Government interference in the judicial process was prohibited by the Constitution. The chief justice of the Supreme Court and the attorney general were responsible for guaranteeing the impartiality of the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused, respectively (see Major Governmental Bodies , ch. 4).

Data as of December 1989