Safety in Singapore and crime risks

Singapore is one of the safest cities in Southeast Asia, if not the world. This highly wired city-state has surveillance cameras everywhere and is known for its tough laws, prompting some to refer it as a police state. Despite these criticisms, you can walk down the streets here safely without fears of being mugged.

Violent crimes against tourists are rare. Still, petty crimes like snatch theft and pick pocketing do occur at the airport, tourist destinations, shopping centres and on public transport so tourists are advised to remain vigilant.

In a bid to shed its conservative image, Singapore has relaxed some rules over the years and is no longer quite as Draconian as it once was. In fact, there are no real restrictions on conduct which Western people would find extraordinary.

Laws against bar top dancing and casinos have since been overturned. Chewing gums are also now available but only those for medical purposes such as nicotine gums. Even so, they are only available at pharmacies and an ID is required. For all the flak that Singapore has received about policing the state, it has a relatively low crime rate which helps make it a very livable city.

Some Singapore safety concerns

Corporal punishment: Singapore’s no nonsense reputation when it comes to crime and safety has sometimes landed the city-state the wrong kind of publicity. In the 1990s, for instance, it caught international attention for two reasons – the caning of American teenager, Michael Fay, for vandalism and the banning of chewing gums. As such, tourists often have an impression that they may get into trouble for petty offences.

Drugs: While crimes against littering and jaywalking are hardly enforced (And as such you do see these activities taking place in crowded places) drug offences are a completely different matter. Do take note that drug trafficking is a serious offence in Singapore warranting a death penalty.

Death penalty: Singapore is believed to have one of the highest per-capita execution rates in the world, typically for murder or drug smuggling. Lesser offences, such as illegal entry, overstaying for more than 90 days and vandalism, will warrant caning.

Fines: Singapore is not known as a ‘fine city’ for no reason. The city-state frequently uses the fine system as a deterrent from would be offenders for petty crimes ranging from jaywalking to littering. Just walk around the city and you will see the various signs informing you of the penalties incurred when you break the law.

The fine system has worked remarkably well as the government knows where it will hurt Singaporeans the most – their pockets. But do not worry too much as a tourist and just use common sense to guide your conduct in the state.

Sex: Until recently, oral and anal sex was illegal. However, it was legalised in 2007 but only for heterosexuals. Though the city has a vibrant gay community and it is not an offence to be a gay person in Singapore, there are laws in place making it illegal for sex between same-sex adults.

Homosexual travellers: Do note that entrapments for gay tourists do occur. Plainclothes police officers have been known to act as decoys to arrest gay people cruising in public toilets and parks. However, this has been rare lately and the government has said it will not use anti-gay laws to prosecute gay persons. Nevertheless, gay tourists should always be vigilant.