Children's safety — and safety from children — top Ikego meeting agenda
November 9, 2007
IKEGO, Japan — Safety — both for and from — Ikego’s children highlighted the housing complex’s town meeting Tuesday, when issues ranged from drivers speeding near schoolchildren to child bullies.
Parents were taken to task for not taking responsibility for the behavior of their children, more so than officials.
“If we can’t police our own children, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves,” said a resident who drew applause for his statements that some of Ikego’s children need more structure and aren’t representing the United States well.
Children won’t move aside to let him pass on the sidewalk, he said.
Another resident spoke about a second-grader who broke into her neighbor’s home in June. The victims hadn’t yet received restitution for what was taken, she said.
“What is being done to keep us safe?” she asked, adding that security does a good job of responding to incidents, but she wants to see long-term change.
Unfortunately, the Navy cannot force a civilian — much less a second-grader — to pay restitution, said Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka chief staff officer Cmdr. Jon Lundquist.
“We can encourage them. We can counsel them. But we can’t force them,” Lundquist said.
Civilians who misbehave can be required to appear before the Civilian Administrative Forum, where they can be assigned community service, he said. In extreme cases, civilians can be debarred from base, Lundquist said.
“It’s serious stuff. A person who is debarred cannot come on any base in Japan until the debarment is lifted by CNFJ,” Lundquist said, adding that Capt. Daniel Weed has debarred two children — those of an senior officer and a top enlisted servicemember — since becoming Yokosuka’s base commander last April.
Lundquist said youth incidents are declining with more police on the streets and a stricter CAF process, but new families are always moving in, so they have to be vigilant, he said.
Residents suggested an area orientation briefing for children and asked parents to police areas where kids misbehave, especially at the bus stops in the mornings. Curfews were suggested, but Lundquist demurred, saying “it punishes the good with the bad.”
“Curfews are a tool, but a blunt tool,” Lundquist said, adding that they don’t work, as they’ve had to pull 16-year-olds out of the Honch — a local nightclub district — at 11 p.m.
“Most of the kids are good,” he said. “It’s just that small group who gets all the attention.”
Parents were also concerned about drivers who speed on Sasagi Hill, sharing the road with children riding their bikes to Ikego Elementary School.
“I’m afraid the children are going to get hit by a car,” one resident said. Suggestions were made for speed bumps, an electric flashing sign that shows the speed of drivers and a lower speed limit for the duration of the school day.
Lundquist said he would consider those suggestions, and Ikego officer-in-charge Helen Murphy also asked parents to help their children to school, especially if they are new bike riders.
“Parents need to be involved,” she said.
What’s on their minds
Here is a sampling of questions from the Ikego Town Meeting on Tuesday. The response are from:
Cmdr. Jon Lundquist, chief staff officer, Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (L)
Ikego officer-in-charge Helen Murphy (M)
Rusti Rausch, Navy Exchange district operations manager (R)
Could we get more buses running between Ikego and Yokosuka? Maybe we could cut the number of runs the local buses make around Yokosuka and send one to Ikego instead.
L: This is a color-of-money issue. The transportation on the base is to move workers and active-duty people around to their jobs. Others can ride on a space-available basis. The Negishi community is talking about starting a share-a-ride board. It’s not as good as a bus, but it’s a possible solution.
When will the Jimmuji train bridge be completed?
L: Because the project is headed by the government of Japan, we have very little say-so. However, they have said that it will be finished by the end of March before the next fiscal year. This has been a long, painful process as it has involved the train companies and the governments. But by the end of March, Capt. [Daniel] Weed (the commanding officer of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka) told the government that he looks forward to walking over the bridge. They said they will walk over it with him.
Will the gate be open the same hours as the Ikego’s main gate?
L: No, it will be opened only during train station hours. There is some talk about installing a SmartGate there in the future — a Commander, Naval Forces Japan prototype that will be tested in Yokosuka.
Have you taken a home-to-work bus survey recently?
L: Yes, we have. There will be no changes until the fleet comes back. We’re looking hard at this issue both here and in Negishi.
Can the minimart’s hours of operation start earlier?
M: We looked at that, and it wasn’t cost-efficient.
Can we get a coffee kiosk?
R: We’ve done that in Sasebo, and it seems to be doing OK. I’ll take the idea back.
— Allison Batdorff