Singapore

Dogs to help in security checks

Checks at public transport hubs led to 688 arrests in first 10 months this year

Police patrols, with dogs trained to sniff out explosives, will be stepped up to cover more MRT stations and bus interchanges during this festive period, even as the number of arrests at such public places this year has hit a three-year high.

Teams of three or four men from the Public Transport Security Command (Transcom) and the K-9 unit of the Special Operations Command may also stop commuters to check their bags and pockets as well as ask for their particulars if a person appears suspicious.

If someone is found to be wanted for existing offences, the individual may be handed over to other enforcement agencies, such as the Central Narcotics Bureau or the National Environment Agency, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Transcom officers will also deal with drug-related and molestation offences.

A check should not take more than two minutes if the commuter is cooperative, said Transcom's Sergeant (NS) Bryant Choo yesterday.

These checks have proven useful as they have led to arrests of people who possess dangerous weapons like brass knuckle-dusters as well as stolen property, said the police spokesman.

Transcom's latest figures show 688 arrests were made in the first 10 months of this year, which have exceeded last year's 12-month figure of 676 arrests and 545 in 2015.

Sgt (NS) Choo said the patrols typically cover crowded MRT stations such as those in Raffles Place, Bugis and Bayfront. A team stays for about 30 minutes at each station or interchange.

More than 50,000 commuters are checked yearly by Transcom officers, who wear a dark-blue uniform and a light-grey beret, the spokesman said.

During a demonstration for the media yesterday on how police dogs detect explosives, officers said the animals will not approach a person without a command from its handler.

During patrols, Transcom officers will walk alongside or behind the dogs, which will be on a leash held by a handler.

Noting that some people may be sensitive to dogs, Sgt Choo said officers will place themselves between these people and the canines.

Yesterday, Senior Staff Sergeant Wong Wenxiong led Esso, a two-year-old German shepherd, towards a carpark at Mowbray Camp near Chua Chu Kang.

The dog sniffed at various vehicles and at a red car, it stopped and sat on its hind legs - a sign that something was not right. A check uncovered an explosive - albeit a dummy device - near the car's front bumper.

The demonstration involving Esso shows the outcome of a 12-week training programme that is compulsory for all sniffer dogs.

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COURT & CRIME