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Data from ERP, public transport cameras to be used in terror fight

Mr Shanmugam said the data from the ERP system (above) and public transport video cameras could be vital to Singapore's safety and security in countering terrorist activities.


THE Home Team wants to expand its use of intelligence and investigation tools, and it will make better use of available data in Singapore to combat the growing threat of terrorism and serious crimes.

Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam made this point in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on his ministry's spending plans for the new financial year.

He cited examples such as the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system and public transport video cameras, both of which contain important data that could be vital to Singapore's safety and security.

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"We had initially taken the position that some of these data would not be used ... but with a changed security environment, it means we have to change our position," said Mr Shanmugam.

The Home Team had to be able to collect and analyse suspicious travel patterns, and respond in a swift and decisive manner "for our collective security".

"If we don't rely on the existing data, then we have to spend taxpayers' money to redo the entire infrastructure to look at how people move. Because that's one of the ways in which you now analyse patterns, apart from other data."

He added that it was important to realise that the fight against terrorism "must begin and must be fought beyond our borders".

He noted how Holland-Bukit Timah Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza had pointed out that effective regional and international partnerships were key to doing so.

Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore already has strong reciprocal intelligence and information exchanges with other countries. For instance, the Republic inked a comprehensive agreement on counter-terrorism with Australia last June.

"We have also strengthened legislation to enable swift and effective action against terrorism and terrorism financing, and enhanced our international cooperation capabilities," he said.

But while the authorities would do their utmost in the fight against terrorism, he stressed that it was not possible to rule out that an attack could strike Singapore one day.

In his speech, Mr Shanmugam also spoke of how the heightened security threat to Singapore had led to a growth in the Home Team's workload in the last few years.

He cited four developments that would have a significant impact on the complexity and volume on the workload - Singapore's greying population, growing traveller and cargo volumes, new manifestations of crime such as cybercrime, and the expectations from the public.

Hence, he said that the Home Team will need a new operating model to manage its workload and enhance operational effectiveness. It will be more data-driven and employ data analytics to better anticipate where emergencies might occur.

During the debate, backbenchers Tan Wu Meng and Rahayu Mahzam mentioned the need to have a "whole of society" mindset to security, and to start from a young age.

Mr Shanmugam agreed, and he said the new SG Secure national movement would build on the efforts by the community to keep Singapore safe and secure, and would build on the efforts of the existing Community Engagement Programme.

The government will use SG Secure to empower the community to stay alert, united and strong in the face of the terrorist threat.

"Ultimately, SG Secure is not just a public awareness campaign. It is a call to action," said the minister. The movement, to be launched later in the year, will be larger in scope and scale of outreach, with a sharper focus on vigilance and on preparing the community to respond to potential threats.

"The success really depends on the community responding to the call, though we will do everything we can to bring it to the community. We will roll out programmes which seek to touch almost every section of our society, on awareness, on responses, and on coming together if there is an attack," he said.

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