Devise Ways to Protect Passengers from Indiscriminate Attacks

Incidents of passengers being indiscriminately attacked on trains continue to occur. Railroad companies should put the safety of passengers first and take every possible step to protect them.

The Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court has sentenced to 23 years in prison a man accused of attempted murder and other crimes for attacking passengers riding a train on the Keio Line in Tokyo in October 2021.

In the ruling, the court found that the defendant, in addition to stabbing one passenger in the chest with a knife, poured oil on the floor and set it on fire in an attempt to kill 10 people. The court ruled that this was “a heinous and despicable crime that indiscriminately targeted the lives of passengers.”

There is no place to flee in a moving train, and it is not unreasonable to say that the situation could have become catastrophic depending on the state of the fire. Some of the victims are still suffering from aftereffects. The fear and anxiety of those who happened to be present at the crime scene is immeasurable.

As his motive, the defendant stated at his trial that he “wanted the death penalty.” It must be said that this is nothing short of being overly selfish.

Three months before the incident, another man stabbed and attempted to kill three passengers with a kitchen knife, including a female college student, on an Odakyu Line train running in Tokyo and elsewhere. The man, who was charged with attempted murder and other crimes, was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The elements which the two incidents have in common are that the defendants were unable to build relationships with people around them, moved from job to job and turned their dissatisfaction toward society. There is no denying a fear that people who feel less connected to others and become increasingly isolated could become “lone offenders” in the future.

In the Keio Line incident, the train stopped off-center from the platform sliding doors at the station, leading to a chaotic situation in which passengers who could not get out through the train doors escaped through train windows one after another. How to deal with a state of panic during an emergency is a major issue.

It is essential for railroad companies to closely cooperate with the police to make a plan in advance regarding the personnel deployment necessary to guide passengers to evacuate and to confirm the routes to take.

There is a growing trend to reduce the number of station staff as a result of the streamlining of operations and other factors. A situation must be avoided in which there are few staffers at a station in the event of an emergency, and they are unable to respond to passengers.

In July, a man with a knife slashed three people including passengers riding a JR Kansai Airport Line train in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture. The man had been flashing the knife before the attacks, but the station and command center did not become aware of the incident until after the train arrived at the station.

Security cameras were installed in the train, but they were reportedly a recording type. If the cameras had been high-performance cameras that can immediately detect suspicious behavior with artificial intelligence, it is possible that staff could have responded earlier. Railroad companies need to promote the installation of such high-performance cameras as well.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2023)