A snapshot of a notice put up by a kindergarten in Hougang has been sparking panic among parents of young children in Singapore.
The notice, which is being circulated on social media, wrote that there was “a child-grabbing incident” that happened on Monday 6 May at around 7.45am near the lift lobby of block 327 Hougang Avenue 5.
The kindergarten, run by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF), is at block 328.
It stated that a mother was holding her child’s hand when a man “tried to grab the child”.
It further described the man as being “normal looking” with “a white plastic object tied around his neck”, and that he “did not succeed and ran away”.
One Facebook profile “PoshBaby Shop” reposted the notice Wednesday night and there are more than 5,800 “shares” by far.
Comments ranged from those who were alarmed by the news, to those who said it was likely a hoax.
There were also a number who were sceptical because they pointed to grammatical mistakes and unhelpful phrasing such as “normal looking” in the notice, and said it does not seem like an official statement.
MAN IN THE LIFT
A couple of online users have also posted the notice on the Singapore Police Force Facebook page asking for clarification and investigation.
Police responded in a media statement at 1pm Thursday that they have contacted the parent of the child and the kindergarten to get more facts.
And their subsequent investigations confirm that there was no such attempt to “grab” the child, they said.
A man in his 50s, who is “a neighbourhood character”, was merely trying to interact and hold the child’s hand while he was in the lift with them. There was no attempt by him to forcefully grab the child away.
The mother seemingly panicked and after they got out of the lift, she reported the incident to her husband, who called the police at 11am on 6 May. The mother also alerted the kindergarten, which then put out the notice.
Police said on its Facebook page that “what really happened could have been taken out of context through hearsay by various concerned parties”.
UNNECESSARY PUBLIC ALARM
Police added that while such concern is good, they also urge the public not to circulate or repost this incident.
“It can generate unnecessary public alarm, causing fear and panic in the community,” the statement read.
Transmitting false messages is an offence under Section 45 of the Telecommunications Act.
If this is done with intent to create cause fear and alarm, or to incite offences against a class or community of persons, it may also be an offence under Section 505 of the Penal Code.
Offenders may be jailed up to three years, fined or both.
ADVISORY TO PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
As a reminder to parents, the police advise that they should ensure that young children are accompanied at all times by caregivers and they should not leave their child out of sight.
They shouId also inform the school or childcare centre if they have arranged someone else to fetch the child.
Childcare centres and preschools are advised to ensure that only the rightful parents or appointed guardians are allowed to come into contact with the children.
Parents, guardians or caregivers of young children should call 999 or make a police report if they come across any suspicious incidents.