Time for vehicle rental companies to step up security checks?
Rental vehicles are increasingly being used as weapons for terrorism
The attack in London over the weekend involved the use of a rental van that ran down several people on London Bridge.
In a March attack on Westminster Bridge, a rental car was used to ram into pedestrians, while a rented truck was used in an attack in Nice, France, last July.
The use of rental vehicles in these cases have raised the question of whether further checks should be implemented by rental companies on their customers.
According to car rental companies here, there are no mandatory background checks in place for the rental of vehicles in Singapore.
However, Mr Vincent Tan, 51, vice-president of the Vehicle Rental Association here, said most car rental companies do screen their clients.
"Our members are advised to do checks, but their identification and address is all we can check," he said.
Mr Tan, who is also the general manager of RMG Rent-a-Car, added that they have a blacklist shared among rental companies, but this list comprises mainly customers with poor payment practices.
"If police share info, we will use it, but so far they have not contacted us about this," said Mr Tan.
"It would be logical for the authorities to at least look into measures to make vehicle attacks less likely."Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna
The New Paper understands that there has been no engagement from the police with rental companies with regards to stepping up checks on vehicle rentals. But companies like AKA Car Rental said they would welcome such sharing of information.
Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies and coordinator of the National Security Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the authorities should look into such measures.
"We do know that ISIS social media propaganda has been promoting the weaponisation of everyday items such as cars, trucks and knives for a while now," he said.
"It would be logical for the authorities to at least look into measures to make vehicle attacks less likely."
Criminals are already using rental vehicles to commit crimes.
In January, The Straits Times reported that rental companies here were stepping up their checks as their vehicles were being used for vice activities such as smuggling contraband cigarettes and drugs.
Former police officer David Ng, 40, said that having a police watchlist and stepping up checks would help, though this could be "easily circumvented by having someone else rent the car".
There are further steps that can be taken, such as having frontline staff trained to spot tell-tale signs, and using the Global Positioning Systems already installed in rental cars.
"If a rental car is hanging around in areas that are suspicious such as key installations or sensitive events like the Shangri-La Dialogue, then an alarm should be raised," he said.
"But all of this would definitely require government support to be rolled out nation-wide."