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    Jul 19, 2016

    Police to work with malls to boost anti-terror vigilance

    IN RECENT weeks, a nightclub in Orlando, a restaurant in Dhaka and crowds in Nice have been targeted for attacks.

    With Singapore also facing the threat of terrorism, the police want some of the more vulnerable and crowded establishments - especially retail malls - to shore up their defences.

    "Moving forward, the police will be engaging the management of commercial buildings, including retail malls, to develop contingency plans and conduct joint exercises to enhance their readiness to deal with any attack," said Melvin Yong, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

    He was speaking yesterday at the first of several counter-terrorism seminars conducted by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for the business community.

    Mr Yong said increased vigilance is especially necessary in the wake of recent terror events, such as the attack in Nice that claimed 84 lives, and, closer to home, a grenade explosion at a Selangor nightspot that left eight injured.

    The necessity to mount counter-terrorist defences locally is even more pressing in light of attacks in Orlando and Dhaka, which point to a shift in modus operandi among terrorist groups, with increasingly brutal, drawn-out killings taking place instead of bomb attacks.

    There have also been more "lone wolf" attacks in recent years, said Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, an assistant professor at the NTU Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

    "Right now, Singapore is beginning to see enhanced security. The fact that we're one of the most global, cosmopolitan cities that has not seen an attack, shows that our security system is very much in place," he added.

    But more needs to be done.

    This includes the need for retail establishments to work together and share information within a tightly-knit network.

    Associations such as the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) have taken steps to implement counter-terrorism measures. Orba currently recommends that its stakeholders increase the presence of monitoring systems to deter and detect intruders.

    "We are working with the agencies, perhaps to have a joint exercise for mass evacuations, or in-house training for different complexes," said Steven Goh, executive director of Orba.

    Excessive security could impede day-to-day operations of retailers but the presence of bag checks at every mall entrance might nonetheless be inevitable, said retail expert Sarah Lim, senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic. They are already a common sight in the Philippines and Thailand.

    "Bag checks are feasible and have been practised. It's a matter of getting used to it - and it will take time but shoppers, in the long run, can accept it," she added.

    Meanwhile, the SCDF will continue its work to educate Singaporeans on what to do in the event of a terror attack. These include tips on how to escape and stay safe during a mass evacuation and the important numbers to call during an emergency.

    "We need our community to do their part in keeping Singapore safe, for it is not a matter of 'if' a terror attack will happen here, but a matter of 'when' it will happen," said Mr Yong.