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High-rise litterbugs may face tougher penalties

SINGAPORE — The penalties for high-rise littering “need to be significantly raised”, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday, adding that the standard operating procedure for the deployment of surveillance cameras to catch offenders is being reviewed.

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SINGAPORE — The penalties for high-rise littering “need to be significantly raised”, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday, adding that the standard operating procedure for the deployment of surveillance cameras to catch offenders is being reviewed.

Speaking in Parliament, Dr Balakrishan said since 2011, 12 suspects have been caught on camera, while five have been prosecuted in court after the National Environment Agency (NEA) piloted the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at hot spots to deter high-rise littering.

In response to Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Member of Parliament (MP) Lim Wee Kiak’s questions, Dr Balakrishnan said that he was “not satisfied” with the situation.

The minister pointed out that while more than 8,000 complaints of high-rise littering are reported each year, only about 10 to 12 are taken to court.

Dr Balakrishnan added: “Given the fact that (culprits in) most recent cases were only fined between S$800 and S$1,500 ... we probably need to review the penalties ... I think the penalties need to be significantly raised.”

He said “a spectrum of penalties which makes it easier or less restrictive when agencies need to take action” against high-rise littering is necessary but did not say when the review of the penalties will be completed.

Currently, those convicted of high-rise littering for the first time can be fined up to S$1,000 and ordered to perform the Corrective Work Order (CWO) for up to 12 hours.

Second-time offenders can be fined up to S$2,000, while third and subsequent offenders can be fined a maximum of S$5,000.

They can also be ordered to perform the CWO for up to 12 hours.

As for high-rise surveillance using CCTV cameras, Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry is reviewing the standard operating procedure for “second and third deployments” of cameras so that residents will not be informed of when they will be installed for a “greater deterrent effect”.

He noted that the NEA currently sends letters to residents to inform them of when and where a camera will be installed.

This, however, has led to a “ridiculous” situation where littering is minimised when the camera is in operation, but the social nuisance rears its head when the camera is removed.

The NEA had previously said that more than 300 locations where residents have reported high-rise littering incidents have been placed under camera surveillance as of the end of February.

When asked by Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah if other technology, such as DNA testing on sanitary pads, can be used to nab high-rise litterbugs, Dr Balakrishnan said this would “take intrusive surveillance to new heights” as a DNA database would need to be set up.

He also emphasised that the “more effective assumption of personal responsibility” should be the real solution to deter littering, instead of a “cat-and-mouse game” of trying to catch offenders in the act.

“Our primary line of defence must remain the adoption of personal responsibility and cultivation of appropriate social norms within our neighbourhoods,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

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