We’re more vulnerable than ever.
Recently, the world has been hit with a slur of attacks, and a day that passes without news on havoc being wrecked by groups or individuals is considered a good one.
There is also more animosity, and hate messages being spread about communities of people – most of whom are collateral damage dragged into the mess by a few bad apples.
In Singapore, security, regardless of scale, has always been something visible – from the posters that ask us to be vigilant at MRT stations, to the small groups of Police you see patrolling public areas and the insane number of CCTVs we’re going to have around us, Singapore is, for the lack of a better phrase, “don’t play play” when it comes to safety.
Think about it, even an integral part of our National Day celebrations is a showcase of our defence equipment!
In spite of Singapore not experiencing any of these attacks, security measures should not be slackened – in fact, they should be heightened due to the increasing varied ways that attacks are being carried out.
Security Checks, Coming To A Mall Near You
This morning, The Straits Times reported that the Singapore police will be enhancing security measures in some of the most densely populated areas around the island – shopping malls.
Mr Melvin Yong, an MP of Tanjong Pagar GRC said at a counter-terrorism seminar for the business community, “Moving forward, the police will be engaging the management of commercial buildings, including retail malls, to develop contingency plans and conduct joint exercises to enhance their readiness to deal with any attack.”
This will come in the form of retail establishments working together in “a tightly knit network”, mass evacuations in the case of attacks, and in-house training for staff. The Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) is also currently encouraging its stakeholders to increase the number of monitoring systems (CCTVs) in the malls to help detect, and hopefully deter, threats.
We might also be seeing bag checks at mall entrances soon, if retail expert and senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic Sarah Lim’s prediction is right.
Singaporean malls and shoppers currently only see the occasional security guard patrolling the floors, so the probable addition of the bag checks at entrances might take some getting used to – for both shoppers and mall tenants.
“Bag checks are feasible and have been practised. It is a matter of getting used to them – and it will take time, but shoppers, in the long run, can accept it.”
The moves will also come with an increased need for trained security personnel, and that might prove to be a challenge if there aren’t enough individuals to take up such roles.
In the meantime, the Singapore Civil Defence Force is continuing efforts to educate to public, since community vigilance is possibly one of the most effective means in detecting threats. As compared to security cameras and guards which have limited reach, every individual in the community is not only a mobile, but also reactive means of detection.
Said Mr Yong, “We need our community to do its part in keeping Singapore safe, for it is not a matter of ‘if’ a terror attack will happen here, but a matter of ‘when’ it will happen.”
Singaporeans have taken to the news relatively positively, with many offering their personal (positive) experiences with bag checks in other countries:
and suggestions on how the security measures can be implemented and improved on.
The comments which were adverse to the news, however, brought up the very legitimate concern about the lack of security guards, and the possibility that to keep up with the increased demand of security, those currently employed need to work overtime.
Working overtime would result in more fatigued guards, and a drop in their attention, which is detrimental especially in their job scope of keeping vigilant.
In general though, this piece of news was more well-taken to as compared to the recent announcement that more CCTVs would be installed around town centres, neighbourhood centres, hawker centres and walkways leading to MRT stations and bus interchanges, on top of the current 62,000 police cameras at 10,000 HDBs and multi-storey carparks.
Perhaps it’s the issue of personal space how it is ‘intruded’ by the constant watch of the CCTV.
The recent fiasco involving a piece of paper, Holland Village and a 3-day-long manhunt ending in Thailand probably contributed to the negative impressions Singaporeans have of the effectiveness of our many CCTVs as well.
In comparison, the mall-based initiatives would only affect their visitors, and in the face of looming terror threats, it is recognised that the best way is the usually safest, albeit inconvenient way.
Threats Can Be Lessened, But Never Eradicated
Security measures are, unfortunately, more prevention than cure.
Not to be a pessimist, but the threat of terror can never really be eradicated even with the best guards and systems, because those who aim to cause harm will always find a way to do so.
The means of how mass attacks have been operated recently have also been extremely varied.
For example, the attack in Nice, France caught everyone off-guard. To summarise, a truck was driven into a large crowds watching fireworks at the Bastille Day celebration on 14 July. The incident has been described as the 3rd terrorism-related attack in France since January 2015.
What was horrifying about the event was not only the death toll, but the brutality of the attack and how it took advantage of the lowered guards of innocent crowds simply gathered together for celebration.
Does that mean that all our guards must be up at all times? Perhaps, but that does not mean we need to be paranoid either.
As compared to simply relying on systems put in place to increase security, there would be an increased need for all of us to stay more vigilant about our surroundings and suspicious persons.
Because really, all we have for defence is each other.
Feature Image Credit: panoramio