JAPAN - The murders of young children continue despite the efforts of police, who launched a series of measures after a number of murder cases involving children in 2004 and 2005, and local residents' crime prevention patrols.
They include a striking number of cases in which girls were targeted with the intent of molesting them. Though the importance of local residents' crime prevention activities are gaining recognition, efforts have not been sufficient to prevent such crimes.
In Hiroshima in November 2005, a first-grade primary school girl was killed by a Peruvian national and her body was abandoned. The man was sentenced to a prison term on various charges, including murder and sexual assault resulting in death.
In December 2005 in Imaichi, a city which is now part of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, a girl was abducted on her way home from school and killed. Her body was found in a mountain forest about 60 kilometers from the scene where she went missing. In June this year, an unemployed man was arrested and indicted.
In March 2011, a girl shopping with her family at a commercial facility in Kumamoto was taken to a rest room and killed by a male university student.
In response to the series of the crimes, the National Police Agency issued instructions in 2005 to police headquarters nationwide to reinforce patrols around schools, on routes to and from schools, at parks and in other locations.
The NPA also instructed the police to notify parents and parental guardians of information about past criminal incidents and suspicious persons in their neighborhoods.
According to the NPA, the number of kidnapping cases in which children under 13 years old were targeted over a 10-year period to 2012 was lowest, at 63, in 2008. The number has risen since then, increasing to 95 in 2012.
Prof. Masayuki Kiryu of Toyo University, an expert on criminal psychology, said: "Though crime prevention activities by local residents have improved, the places the residents cover are limited, such as commuting to and from schools and in parks where children gather. So the effect is limited. People can't say whether a person is a criminal merely by appearance, so it's impossible for children to do so."
Kiryu added: "It's necessary to properly analyse information from police and look for premonitory signs - for example, children being offered sweets - and times and areas when children are often approached by strangers, or where unknown persons have been often spotted in certain situations. The results of this analysis should be utilized in local crime prevention patrols."
On the other hand, Yukiko Saeki, an adviser on community safety, said: "I feel the most important thing is not to leave a child alone. When people go out with little children, I wish adults would teach children not to follow strangers and to keep a distance of at least a 1½ meters when they pass a car, so that they are not dragged into the vehicle."
Saeki said she wanted parents and parental guardians to teach about crime in line with children's growth and capability to understand, and also hoped adults would teach children practical measures to protect themselves, such as shouting and running to places where there are many people.