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To nab high-rise litterbug, police took 10 days but NEA needs 10 weeks or more. Here's why

SINGAPORE — It takes 10 weeks to six months for the authorities to investigate and prosecute a person for high-rise littering, Dr Amy Khor said on Tuesday (Sept 3).

To nab high-rise litterbug, police took 10 days but NEA needs 10 weeks or more. Here's why

Some of the litter found near Block 841 on Yishun Street 81. Last year, the National Environment Agency received about 26,000 complaints of littering and carried out enforcement against 39,000 cases involving litterbugs.

SINGAPORE — It takes 10 weeks to six months for the authorities to investigate and prosecute a person for high-rise littering, Dr Amy Khor said on Tuesday (Sept 3). 

The Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources explained that during this time, officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) will need to interview witnesses and suspects, and conduct stakeouts and patrols to identify the offender and ascertain culpability.

She was giving a glimpse of the work that investigators have to do to address the issue of enforcement — among other things raised in Parliament with regards to a fatal killer-litter incident last month in Outram.

The victim, a 73-year-old delivery driver, was killed after he was struck in the head by a wine bottle thrown from a condominium unit at Spottiswoode Park Road. An Australian man, 47, has been charged.

Noting that the police took 10 days to catch the suspect, Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Member of Parliament (MP) for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC), questioned if NEA could take a page out of the police’s swiftness.

Mr Liang, who is also a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Water Resources, said: “The police took swift action and made an arrest in all of 10 days, likely with the help of the forensic capabilities which the agencies have.

“Could (NEA) have that kind of resources and hence the efficacy and urgency to deal with this kind of situation, some of which are near-misses and fatal near-misses?”

Other MPs — Nee Soon GRC MPs Lee Bee Wah and Louis Ng — urged the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to consider relooking its enforcement processes to either catch offenders faster or deter would-be litterbugs.

INVESTIGATION TAKES TIME

In response, Dr Khor said that the 10-week window which NEA needs arises from the agency’s enforcement process to ensure that its investigations are “thorough and accurate”. This includes a four- to six-week period in verifying feedback and gathering evidence, as well as a two-week notice period for suspected litterbugs and flat owners to be interviewed.

She said that NEA prioritises the cases based on severity, the type of litter, as well as the evidence available. “With such a large volume of cases, and the fact that resources are not unlimited, we will have to prioritise,” Dr Khor said

Last year, the agency received about 26,000 complaints of littering and carried out enforcement against 39,000 cases involving litterbugs, she said.

On high-rise littering in particular, NEA handled 7,700 cases between 2016 and 2018, processing between 2,300 and 2,800 each year.

Since 2012, it had made use of surveillance cameras with video analytics to catch offenders red-handed, Dr Khor said, adding that the cameras had contributed significantly to improving NEA’s enforcement effort.

“Between August 2012 and December 2018, more than 2,200 offenders were caught for high-rise littering, of whom 52 were repeat offenders.”

Penalties for littering are strict. First-time litterbugs could be fined $2,000 for each offence, while recalcitrant individuals offending for the third time or more could be fined S$10,000 fine and be served a Corrective Work Order, where they have to clean public areas. Around 2,600 of such orders were handed out last year.

PUBLIC MAY HELP BY GIVING EVIDENCE 

As the speed of enforcement depends on the evidence, Dr Khor appealed to the public to come forward when they encounter cases of high-rise littering, to report and submit photo and video evidence through the myENV mobile application or call NEA’s hotline.

The feedback provider should also be willing to testify in court as a witness if need be, she added.

Related topics

NEA litter environment enforcement police

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