The Yomiuri ShimbunIs there no way to prevent heinous crimes targeting children on their way to and from school? The latest murder case has highlighted a grave problem.
The victim in the case was a 7-year-old, second-grade elementary school girl of Nishi Ward, Niigata. In their investigation of the girl’s murder and the abandonment of her body, the Niigata prefectural police have arrested a 23-year-old male company employee who lived near the scene of the incident.
On the afternoon of May 7, the girl went missing after parting from a friend who had left school with her to walk home. Late that night, she was found to have been run over by a train on the JR Echigo Line. A judicial autopsy showed that the girl had died from suffocation, which led the prefectural police to conclude that she had been murdered and her body abandoned afterward.
The man is alleged to have put her body on the tracks, leaving it to be run over by the train and mutilated. He is also said to have acknowledged his involvement in the girl’s murder. If the man actually did what he has confessed to doing, his actions can only be described as brutal. What agony her family must be suffering.
The prefectural police must uncover the whole truth behind the motive for his conduct, and other matters tied to the case. To prevent their investigation from relying solely on confessions from the man, it is necessary to carefully investigate the case to find corroborative evidence.
The man’s home is only 70 meters away from where the girl’s body was abandoned, and it is also just 110 meters from her home. Local residents must be greatly upset by this incident, which occurred in such a small range of the same area.
In an area near the scene of the incident, there was also said to be a case involving a suspicious man who seized a child by the arm. Was nothing missed in crime-prevention arrangements in that area?
Teach children self-defense
There seems to be no end to crimes targeting children on their way to and from school. In March last year, a Vietnamese girl was murdered in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, and a man was arrested and indicted over the case. He had chaired an association of parental guardians affiliated with the elementary school the girl was attending.
Measures have been taken in the past as well, to prevent children from being alone. As of fiscal 2015, 90 percent of elementary schools nationwide carried out activities for that objective, through efforts by parental guardians and others to accompany and watch over children, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. At 60 percent of elementary schools, children go to and come home from school in groups.
Although there were activities aimed at watching over children along elementary school-commuting roads in Niigata, these watchful eyes did not go as far as an area near the spot in which the girl was last seen. Swift efforts should be made everywhere to reexamine whether any dangerous spots are omitted from the list of target areas.
Needless to say, it is difficult to keep an eye on all school-commuting routes. Even when coming home from school in groups, there are periods of time when children may be alone. It is also important to give children an awareness of the need to defend themselves, based on the assumption that there is a limit to what can be achieved through child-protection measures.
Making it a habit for children to carry crime-prevention buzzers with them, encouraging them to learn how to use such devices, and teaching them where to take refuge in an emergency, such as shops — these kinds of efforts should be made to give children such guidance in school and at home.
It was confirmed that the man’s car had been driven in an area around the scene of the murder, based on such findings as images taken by security cameras on the day of the incident. It is advisable to even more effectively utilize the functions of security cameras as a means of crime prevention.