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NAHA, Okinawa — Crimes by Americans connected with the military on Okinawa — where even a minor incident can spark demonstrations –— dropped sharply during the first half of the year, Okinawa police announced Tuesday.

Okinawa officials welcomed the recent trend, said Kazuhiro Kuno, deputy chief of Okinawa Liaison Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a media briefing that followed the annual meeting of the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team.

Statistics concerning personnel under the status of forces agreement showed 18 fewer crimes and 12 fewer arrests, compared with the first six months of 2008.

According to the report, 24 SOFA individuals committed 26 crimes during the first half of the year, compared to 36 arrests and 44 crimes during the same period of 2008.

The numbers included 16 felonies and eight serious misdemeanors.

About 30 members of the working team met for two hours Tuesday in Naha. The team comprises representatives from the U.S. military, the U.S. and Japanese governments, prefectural and municipal officials from communities that host the bases, and owners of businesses in the entertainment districts adjacent to U.S. military bases.

The purpose of the team is to create a forum to discuss and coordinate measures to reduce crimes and accidents involving SOFA personnel.

There are approximately 48,500 people on Okinawa under the status of forces agreement. The population of Okinawa is about 1.37 million. Although SOFA personnel make up about 4 percent of the population, they consistently are connected to less than 1 percent of the crimes where arrests have been made.

For the first half of the year, there were 0.54 crimes per capita committed by SOFA personnel and slightly fewer arrests — 0.50 — per 1,000 people.

That’s compared to the arrests of 1,851 persons not under the umbrella of the U.S. military on Okinawa, for a rate of 1.35 per 1,000 people.

Kuno said several members of the working team were pleased by the decrease, which showed that preventive measures taken by U.S. forces to reduce crimes were working, including the establishment of courtesy patrols in the bar districts adjacent to bases and the use of liberty cards.

In the first half of last year, two alleged rapes and a series of alcohol-related crimes resulted in strict liberty restrictions. No high-profile crimes have been reported this year.

Kuno noted that its cultural awareness seminars for servicemembers have proven popular and he announced his intention to sponsor a photo exhibition titled “Okinawa through U.S. Soldiers’ Eyes,” for the Okinawan community.

“The detail for the exhibit is yet to work out, but we are working toward realization of the event,” he said.


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