Japan Police to Add 1,000 Security Cameras in Quake-Hit Ishikawa Pref.; Move to Soothe Worries of Damaged House Owners

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A police security camera is seen installed at an elementary school where people are taking shelter in Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Jan. 23.

The National Police Agency plans to install about 1,000 security cameras at evacuation centers and other places in quake-stricken Ishikawa Prefecture to prevent crimes such as sexual assaults and burglaries of empty homes.

Also, the webcast of videos taken by patrol cars while making the rounds in the areas also has started to help alleviate the fears and concerns of evacuees who live away from their homes after they were hit by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

Government-funded efforts

On Jan. 23, the operation of a police security camera, installed at the entrance of municipal Takojima Elementary School in Suzu in the prefecture, started. About 100 people are sheltering at the school in the earthquake-battered city.

“Evacuation centers are visited by many people at all hours of the day and night. Partly because some evacuees have brought valuables with them, people feel easier when a security camera is used,” said city assembly member Kenji Sakai, 67, who is in charge of the evacuation center.

Thefts of property at evacuation centers and burglaries of empty homes have been reported in disaster-stricken areas. On Jan. 5, a university student in his 20s from Aichi Prefecture was arrested at the scene for breaking into the home of a man in his 70s and stealing six mikan tangerines in Wajima in the prefecture.

On Jan. 16, the NPA announced its plan to install about 100 security cameras in the prefecture, provided by other prefectures’ police forces. About 60 of the cameras had been installed in seven municipalities, including Wajima, Suzu and Noto, by Jan. 24.

On Jan. 26, the NPA announced a plan to increase the number of cameras to about 1,000. The NPA will use ¥135 million from the government’s reserve funds for this fiscal year to lease or purchase the cameras. This is the first time for security cameras to be purchased with government funds for installation in disaster-stricken areas.

Helping to alleviate worries

The reason for the measures is not only to alleviate anxiety among disaster victims but also to prevent disaster-related deaths by encouraging the elderly in particular to move to secondary evacuation centers, such as hotels and ryokan inns, without worry.

As of the evening of Jan. 28, there had been reports of 32 cases of theft, home invasion and sexual assault in the prefecture. They included a theft of cash and a ring from an empty home and the vandalism of a convenience store that had been closed.

“There are many people who cannot go home to pick up valuables as their homes have collapsed. Taking advantage of the situation is unforgivable,” said Suzu resident Tatsuo Sano, 83, who is staying at an evacuation center in the city.

According to the prefectural government, about 10,000 people were living in evacuation centers as of Jan. 29. Many people are also believed to be staying in their cars at night.

The government is calling for evacuees to move to secondary evacuation centers, but the shift has not been proceeding as smoothly as hoped, as people are still concerned about being away from their homes for an extended period of time.

Video webcast

The police are placing emphasis on thorough patrols of the communities in addition to the use of security cameras.

In the disaster-stricken areas in the prefecture, about 500 motor patrol unit members and other police officers, dispatched from across the country, are maintaining vigilance around the clock by patrolling areas around evacuation centers and where houses have collapsed.

The release of video taken by patrol cars while making the rounds of the areas also begun. Images of the city taken from inside police cars driving through different areas can be found on the NPA’s official YouTube channel.

About 50 police officers have also been dispatched to disaster-stricken areas to assist in the initial investigation of incidents. About 60 others, including female police officers, have also been sent to the areas to provide crime prevention guidance and counseling to quake victims.

“We will make every effort to ensure public safety by making full use of security cameras and the webcast to help the victims rebuild their lives,” a NPA official said.