More young girls caught as loanshark runners
Experts surprised that 10 out of 15 young suspects are female, urge parents to make sure they stay away from bad influences
They chain up metal gates of homes and splash paint to warn the occupants to settle their debts.
They are schoolgirls, some as young as 15.
Police news releases from June 28 to July 19 show that 10 of 15 suspects aged 25 and below arrested for loansharking activities during that period were girls.
The female suspects, the youngest being just 15, had allegedly used paint and/or bicycle locks to harass people in debt to illegal moneylenders.
Experts contacted by The New Paper were surprised and concerned by the large proportion of female suspects.
Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet said: "Just six months ago, the cases referred to us for loansharking activities were all boys.
"But I knew this would happen eventually because the girls were going to catch up."
Some young people see loansharking activities as a quick and easy way to make money, Dr Balhetchet added.
"It used to be just boys taking that risk, but the girls now see it as an avenue for them as well.
"The problem is materialism, because these days some young people want nice bags and clothes and are willing to take risks to get the money for them," she said.
Ms Frances Yeo, a consultant psychologist at Thomson Medical Centre, said social media has enabled loan sharks to actively engage the youth.
"Young people are now easily targeted by online ads offering such jobs," she said.
"It's possible that girls are into it now because there is equal access for them."
A police spokesman said they have been working closely with schools and agencies to dissuade young people from taking part in loansharking activities.
"Young people are easy prey for loan sharks who offer easy money as an incentive and provide false assurance that they would be handed lighter sentences if caught," he said.
"The punishments for loansharking-related offences are severe, and parents must intervene should their children show signs of being under the influence of bad company.
"Parents should be mindful of their children's activities and educate them not to fall prey to unscrupulous criminals."
Agreeing, Ms Yeo said: "Absent parents result in young people becoming more vulnerable to advances online, so parenting is important to keep them away from such activities."
Dr Balhetchet said that while parents should be close to their children, they should not be indulgent.
"Instead of getting their children expensive things to make up for not spending time with them, they should focus on having more family time and teaching them the right values," she said.
Under the Moneylenders Act, first-time offenders of loanshark harassment can be fined up to $50,000, jailed up to five years, and caned.
Those who get children under 16 to engage in such acts can be fined up to $300,000, jailed up to seven years, and caned.
Loansharking suspects aged 25 and below nabbed from June 28 to July 19
Loansharking suspects aged 25 and below arrested from June 28 to July 19
- June 28: 16-year-old girl
- July 2: 23-year-old woman
- July 3: 20-year-old man
- July 4: 16-year-old boy
- July 7: Two 16-year-old girls
- July 10: 23-year-old woman
- July 10: Two men and a woman aged 22 to 24
- July 12: 19-year-old woman
- July 16: 18-year-old man
- July 16: Two women aged 24 and 25
- July 19: 15-year-old girl