Cooperative group to consider joint patrols and security cameras at Friday meeting
Stars and Stripes March 6, 2008
CAMP FOSTER — In the wake of several alleged crimes by U.S. servicemembers that led to the recent “period of reflection,” the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team will meet Friday.
The meeting’s agenda includes discussing joint patrols made up of local and military police in entertainment districts frequented by Americans, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naha said Tuesday.
The group also will discuss installing security cameras in the bar districts, the official said.
The Working Team, which was formed in 2002, is made up of representatives of the U.S. and Japanese governments, the U.S. military, Okinawa prefecture, the municipal governments that host military bases and business owners in the bar districts.
Joint patrols have been discussed in the past, but Okinawa police are lukewarm to the idea.
Hachiro Tokutsu, the Okinawa police commissioner, told Okinawa lawmakers during an assembly meeting in late February that he opposed the idea unless the status of forces agreement is changed to allow for Japanese police custody of any SOFA-status offenders arrested by the patrols.
Under the current agreement, whenever a suspect is arrested by military police he or she remains in military custody until indicted in a Japanese court. However, there is an agreement to accept early turnover of persons charged with murder, rape and arson.
Tokutsu said he had no problem with the Marine “courtesy patrols” now assigned to entertainment districts in Okinawa City and Kin. Those patrols are made up of staff noncommissioned officers who have no arrest powers.
Installing surveillance cameras has been on the table since September 2006. The proposal was backed by the Tokyo government and prefectural police, but was nixed by Okinawa City on privacy grounds.
“We are gathering opinions from the affected communities, including residents and business owners,” said Yukio Higa, chief of the community affairs section of the Okinawa City government.