Even cops worry about their kids joining gangs
Cop dad who works with at-risk youngsters worries his kids will join gangs
When Inspector Eric Toh, 38, hears his children speak to friends in Hokkien or sees them folding their sleeves, he gets worried.
For the Senior Investigation Officer from the police's Secret Societies Branch (SSB), these are telltale signs a young person is part of a gang.
The SSB is part of the police's Criminal Investigation Department that focuses on eradicating gangs.
Said Insp Toh: "When (my children) speak loudly over the phone, and when they stay out late, I get jumpy. It's a job hazard."
Fortunately, Insp Toh's daughter, 13, and son, 12, know better than to get involved in gangs.
He said: "I'm very protective of my kids. So I'm always overly worried and look out for the telltale signs (that they might have joined a gang).
"I've told them many times about the dangers of joining a gang."
Insp Toh has been with the SSB for seven years. One of his main concerns is to look out for at-risk young people.
He said: "You can't treat every youth with the same method. Some require you to put pressure on them, but with others, you might need a softer approach."
Sometimes, they scare the youngster with photos of the aftermath of gang fights, where people are severely injured or killed.
Insp Toh said the police take a three-prong approach to tackle the problem of gangs - enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation.
For enforcement, the SSB does spot checks of notorious gang haunts and clamps down on gang activities.
To prevent the young person from joining gangs, early detection is key.
Officers conduct regular spot checks and patrols and mix with the groups gathering in the area. They also get their particulars and do follow-ups with these young people.
The SSB also educates teachers on identifying students who may have joined a gang.
"(The signs) include defiant behaviour, heavy use of profanity or gang jargon, picking fights, or even portraying or identifying themselves as part of a gang," said Insp Toh.
Five years ago, Insp Toh received a hotline call from a father who suspected his son was involved in a gang.
The 14-year-old, who was usually obedient and quiet, had become hostile towards his parents, played truant and his grades suffered.
Insp Toh met him and learnt he was thinking of joining a gang he knew.
Insp Toh told the boy about the consequences of doing so.
He said: "The talk helped to open communication between the father and son. After being put through counselling at school, the son's behaviour improved."
He said: "It's important parents aren't afraid to come forward for help.
"A call to the police doesn't mean a direct sentence and parents shouldn't be afraid to get help if they notice something is up with their child."
By the numbers
Crime statistics for those aged seven to 19
TOP 3 OFFENCES IN 2015
Shop theft: 838
Wilful trespass: 196
Other thefts*: 184
Total arrested: 3,121
TOP 3 OFFENCES IN 2014
Shop theft: 803
Other thefts*: 232
Total arrested: 3,120
*Thefts excluding theft of bicycles, theft from motor vehicles and theft from persons.
SOURCE: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
YOUTH ARRESTED FOR OUTRAGE OF MODESTY
Parents who are concerned if their children are involved in gang-related activities can call the police hotline 6435-0000. Members of the public can also call the number if they have information relating to gangs.