Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on High-rise Littering by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
Ms Mariam Jaafar: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what is the total number of high-rise littering feedback received by NEA in 2021; (b) how long does NEA currently take to investigate high-rise littering cases; and (c) whether the Ministry can provide an update on its review of the suggestion on changing the law such that the liability for such cases is automatically assumed to lie with the owners or registered tenants of the particular unit where high-rise littering had occurred.
1 High-rise littering is a serious offence, as it poses a danger to the public, dirties the environment and potentially threatens our public hygiene. The National Environment Agency (NEA) adopts a holistic approach in tackling high-rise littering, which includes enforcement, surveillance and public education to influence behaviour and cultivate good habits. When feedback on high-rise littering is reported to NEA, NEA will work with the relevant Town Council to issue advisories to residents in the affected building stack and gather relevant information on the suspected units. For persistent cases and where NEA has gathered sufficient leads, surveillance cameras with video analytics will be deployed at appropriate vantage points to monitor the suspected units in the relevant building stack and record acts of high-rise littering for investigation and enforcement.
2 Since 2020, NEA has enhanced its interventions to better tackle high-rise littering and resolve cases expeditiously. These include substantially increasing the number of high-rise littering camera deployments and streamlining investigation processes for swifter enforcement action against offenders. There has been some success, as the average time taken to resolve cases was reduced by about 25% from 2019 to 2021.
3 However, feedback on high-rise littering has continued to outpace our efforts to enhance capabilities and measures. Prior to 2019, an average of 16,000 feedback cases were received each year. From 2019 to 2021, the feedback had increased to 22,000, 35,000 and 32,000 cases respectively.
4 Investigation into high-rise littering cases remains resource-intensive and time-consuming despite our best efforts. Effort is needed to gather information to guide camera deployments, and subsequently identify the high-rise littering offender. Depending on the complexity of the case, NEA generally takes ten weeks to six months to enforce against an offender, from the time the high-rise littering act is successfully captured by surveillance cameras. Often, our surveillance cameras were unable to capture the incidence of high-rise littering. There are also many cases where despite our best efforts, the offender cannot be identified even if there is evidence of high-rise littering being committed from a particular flat. Based on the high-rise littering cases investigated in 2019 to 2021, the identity of the offender could not be identified in about 15% of the cases, on average.
5 We therefore need to consider alternative approaches to better address high-rise littering, including having residents take stronger ownership in preventing such acts from their homes. I thank the Member for her suggestion to introduce legislation to impose liability for high-rise littering on the owners or tenants of the particular unit where the high-rise littering is proven to have been committed. My Ministry will consider how such a law can be applied with proper safeguards, consult relevant stakeholders including the public, and ensure that the law is applied judiciously.