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Rise in Internet use fuelling online drug trade

SINGAPORE — Only six people were arrested in 2014 for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online, compared to 201 last year, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament yesterday, shedding more light on the growing trend.

SINGAPORE — Only six people were arrested in 2014 for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online, compared to 201 last year, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament yesterday, shedding more light on the growing trend.

Responding to a question tabled by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Dennis Tan, Mr Shanmugam said a majority of those arrested last year for online drug trading were male and between the ages of 20 to 39 years old.

Chinese and Malays made up about 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively of the persons arrested. No data was available on their individual or family income, the minister said in a written reply.

Mr Tan had asked for a breakdown on demographics of those caught for online drug peddling, as well as the reasons for the spike in the number of cases.

Mr Shanmugam said the anonymity afforded by the Internet makes it more difficult to detect and apprehend these offenders, which is proving to be a challenge for law enforcement agencies globally.

“The increase in the online drug trade is a direct result of the increasing use of the Internet. More people have taken to the Internet for shopping and other transactions. It is not surprising that drug buyers and suppliers are also moving online,” he said.

The Internet also offers a “cloak of anonymity”, and therefore a perceived sense of safety.

“The Internet allows buyers to purchase their drugs without physically meeting with the suppliers.

“The buyers and suppliers may think that in this way, they can better evade detection by law enforcement agencies,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Among the ways the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is tackling this problem is by working closely with partners such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and courier companies to detect and take action against the online drug trade.

The CNB is also working with the media to publish the trends and dangers of people ordering drugs and drug paraphernalia online, as part of public education efforts, said Mr Shanmugam.

The bureau also conducts online outreach efforts to engage persons who may be vulnerable to the effects of the online drug trade.

“CNB will continue to monitor the developments closely and keep up its enforcement and public education efforts,” Mr Shanmmugam added.

Statistics released by the CNB last month showed a slight increase in the number of new drug abusers arrested — 1,347 new drug abusers were caught last year, which marks an increase of 3 per cent from 1,309 in 2015.

However, overall, the number of drug abusers that were arrested dipped to 3,245 last year, from 3,343 in 2015.

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