The Filthy Thought of An Anti-Crime Tax For Singapore
- From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling
1 Aug 2005
The Filthy Thought of An Anti-Crime Tax For Singapore
When government bodies in Singapore insatiably ask for more public
money, they do away with curtsey and rationality. In strict obedience
to the letters of the rule is the police force during a recent
`consultative' dialogue with representatives of the Town
Councils. On the subject of how the installation and maintenance of
neighbourhood CCTV surveillance cameras could be financially
accomplished, it became a simple matter of billing the beneficiaries.
The nation-wide project, which will see the cameras wired to recorders
situated in police posts and Town Councils, will be funded entirely by
the latter. To help to balance the book, the police brazenly suggested
that the monthly Service and Conservancy Charge (S/C) paid by town
residents to their respective Town Councils be subjected to another
hike, less than a year after the last increment on 1st September 2004
(the first in 7 years).
The indecent proposal, reported exclusively in the Chinese press, will
add to the dread of a population already struggling with the demon of
ceaseless pocket-picking by the public service providers exemplified
by the government agencies.
The seeming inability of the Home Affairs Ministry (which runs the
police department) to muster the ingots to address their professional
shortcoming of curbing the inexorable growth of neighbourhood crime
rate is disturbing. After all, the Ministry had shown an admirable
quality for lavishing on wild fiscal extravagance (see foot note 1).
Thus, it is incomprehensible that the police should express a
reluctance to spend on practical national anti-crime and security
measures, whilst furnishing flippant excuses with the desired effect
to insult the intelligence of the people of (what the government
labelled) a mature society.
The Ministry ought to think harder.
As an interim solution, the Ministry could explore the possibility of
cost-sharing with the various governmental bodies, such as the
Ministry of National Development (HDB), the National Security
Co-ordination Secretariat (NSCS) under the Prime Minister's Office
(Anti-Terrorism), and to a lesser extent the Town Councils.
Town Councils should be entitled to receive grants from the government
for the upkeep of the system. At the same time, Town Councils can
further help to rationalise their expenditure by eliminating frivolous
spending on ill-conceived construction and re-construction of
neighbourhood amenities (like footpaths), huge political propaganda
banners at major junctions and lamp-posts, and needless lightings and
A structured progressive installation of the system will also allow
for greater control over the use of limited funds per budget-year.
In contrast, a policy of selective installation risks shifting crime
elsewhere. Residents, all of whom are paying the same amount of
conservancy charges, would cry foul over the uneven distribution of
benefits. Uncoordinated retrofitting (as an afterthought) will drive
up the cost, reigniting the debate on the need for such an intrusive
measure in a country boasting of a commendably depressed crime rate.
The use of low-end models can further reduce the cost, although these
could be technically inferior, and be susceptible to regular glitches
(as SMRT found to their embarrassment), driving up maintenance cost
which could repercuss on the residents.
The need for such an elaborate surveillance setup is disputable.
Passing the cost to consumers will nudge even the sensible to begin to
entertain the suspicion that selective installation may just be a ploy
to create demand-on-envy, or even the extreme view that the police had
purposefully permitted residential neighbourhood crimes (robbery,
snatch-theft, house-breaking) to escalate to lend weight to their
ambition of an island-wide network of surveillance devices to achieve
a devious objective.
The world will witness its first Anti-Crime Tax if the latest
indigestible proposal for alms from the government is approved.
Co-payment of the sort mooted by the police makes sense only if the
government is working on a principle of just-enough-money-to-get-by.
But such is not the case in Singapore where an obsession with stashing
wealth for the next Big Flood is turning the government into a
It is appalling to State decency to even contemplate such a move
necessitating citizens to decide between paying to poverty, and being
impoverished by crime and felonies.
Such a proposal cannot be justified by any competent government.
(Mr) Law Sin Ling
P.S. Footnote 2 contains quotes from British criminology experts on
the fallacies of over-dependence on CCTV to keep order.
(1) To sample the meaning of superfluous spending by the Home Affairs
Ministry, ponder over the following.
- The construction of a $276 million Home Team Academy to do
essentially what existing establishments can already achieve without
dispensing another singe cent,
- The purchase of 12 Subaru Impreza WRX highway patrol cars with an
impressive speed to take on traffic offenders which can just as easily
be tracked and apprehended through a shrewd deployment of ordinary
patrol cars in collaboration with the island's existing network of
technologically advanced traffic cameras (how big is the island
- The cosmetically glaring but fiscally illogical replacement of the
headdress of the Special Operations Command with a distinctive
- And the highly controversial installation of exorbitant
plasma-technology TVs in police stations for the distracting viewing
pleasure of the officers on duty (the police station is not exactly a
Community Centre for the public to come and go as they please between
(2) Testimonies from British criminology experts on CCTV surveillance.
- "The growth of CCTV as the primary means of crime prevention
could see lesser effort from more traditional community based
- "Turning the nation's city and town streets into seamless
surveillance zones is itself no substitute for proper policing."
- "The TV cameras can't be everywhere. There are hundreds of
thousands of nooks and crannies left, everywhere you look, and this is
where criminals are increasingly operating. And when a camera shows
up, they move elsewhere. Many of the villains are adapting."