CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Crime by Americans on Okinawa dropped almost by half last year, according to prefectural police statistics.

Police reported the arrests of 72 Americans on Okinawa under the U.S.-Japan status of forces agreement in 2004, a decrease of 61, or 45.8 percent from the year before. They reportedly committed a total of 59 felonies, ranging from theft to rape, down from 112 crimes by SOFA members in 2003.

An Okinawa prefectural police spokesman said the reduction in crimes involving SOFA personnel is a result of efforts made by both the Okinawa prefectural police and U.S. military.

“We analyzed the hours and area where crimes are committed,” he said. “This led to effective security patrols.”

Some Okinawa anti-base activists have been quick to attribute the decrease to the deployment of several thousand Marines for duty in Iraq or tsunami-relief efforts in South Asia.

However, at least one Marine unit attributes the improved behavior of junior servicemembers to the success of the Liberty Card program initiated last June.

“Ever since the Liberty Card program went into effect, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of incidents,” said 1st Lt. Janine Mills, adjutant for Headquarters and Service Battalion for Marine bases in Japan.

“And we’re a non-deployable unit,” Mills said.

The battalion consists of about 1,400 Marines and sailors.

On June 11, Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr., commander, Marine Corps Bases Japan, initiated a strict liberty policy for junior Marines and sailors under his command. Nearly all servicemembers in ranks E-5 and below were issued red liberty cards that restrict them to their bases after midnight.

Senior Marines have gold cards, which grant them unrestricted liberty. Servicemembers in ranks E-4 and E-5 can earn gold cards for good behavior.

Since the program went into effect, the number of cases resulting in non-judicial punishment within her battalion has dropped precipitously, Mills said.

In the first six months of the year, before the program went into effect, there were 63 cases resulting in NJPs in her battalion. That number dropped to 29 for the second half of the year.

“The group most likely to get into trouble are the corporals and below, ages 18 to 20 or so,” Mills said, noting that most reports showed most off-base crimes committed by servicemembers occurred after midnight.

“Restricting them to base during the hours most of them got into trouble out in town has had a definite positive effect,” she said.

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