An elementary schoolgirl in Aichi Prefecture is believed to have reported a man to the police late last week when he stopped her to ask for directions to the station.
Most elementary aged children in Japan make their way to and from school on foot, with each child’s route kept on file at the school office to ensure their safety. Children are also arranged into small groups or have walking buddies who take the same route, and local Parent Teacher Associations ensure that there is always someone manning busy intersections each morning to help the children cross the street and keep an eye open for anything suspicious.
Kids are taught the safety rules of not only the road, but also how to prevent becoming victims of crime. Of course, talking to strangers is out of the question, but they are also encouraged to report anything "out of the ordinary." On occasions such as these, the "suspicious characters" are reported, and a letter goes out informing parents about the time and place of the sighting, as well as the physical description of the individual.
Although the details of the incident in Aichi are not yet clear, it is believed that this deeply ingrained fear of "suspicious persons" is the basis for the girl calling the police. Of course, it is necessary to take precautions and better to err on the side of caution, but it does seem a waste of police resources to be called out for a man who only asked directions to the station. Regardless of the man’s true intentions and seemingly innocent conduct, the incident was written up as one of the "Suspicious Characters Reports" anyway. The date and time of the incident along with the words the man used when asking the way to the station and his physical description were all made note of.
Many Japanese Internet users were shocked to hear that a person innocently asking directions should be reported to the police. Here are some of their comments:
“It is a crime to go near a kid!” “I can’t ask for directions anymore.” “What can you do?” “What a difficult world it has become.” “The era of not being able to ask directions…” “How frightening!” “The world has become a frightening place.” “It is sad that suspicion raises such doubt.” “I don’t think I want to walk around outside any more.” “I suppose it’s only a matter of time before there are more cases like this.” “Before you know it guys will be getting arrested just for walking about.” “That’s awful!” “What’s the world coming to?”
The guy was simply asking for directions. But then kids’ safety isn’t something to be taken lightly, and sadly there is a genuine need for crime prevention paraphernalia that kids can carry around with them including wireless GPS systems and alarms.
Belle Maison provides crime prevention noisemakers in the shape of cute animals priced at 819 yen each. When you pull at the head of the cute animal it sets off a loud alarm, attracting the right kind of attention and hopefully scaring away the wrong kind. You can choose from a seal, panda, bear, or cat design.
Noisemakers are good because a kid probably won’t use it unless he or she feels the need, and hopefully someone merely asking the way to the station won’t cause any child to pull the alarm. It would be better, of course, if the world were a place where children didn’t have to worry about having to protect themselves from someone who wishes them harm; a world where they didn’t have to be afraid or feel like they have to discern who is out to hurt them and who is not.
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