Japanese, U.S. leaders work to curb crime
NAHA, Okinawa — Japanese leaders and U.S. officials reaffirmed a commitment to reduce the number of accidents and crime involving Americans on Okinawa — especially those involving teenage military dependents.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Cooperative Working Team, Okinawa prefectural police reported that 63 Americans under the status of forces agreement were arrested for criminal offenses in 2006. That’s two fewer than the previous year, said Hideaki Kuramitsu, deputy chief with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Okinawa.
The drop continues an overall downward trend since 2004, according to the report.
However, Kuramitsu told the gathering that the number of dependents allegedly involved in crimes has increased.
The report said 22 teenage dependents were arrested in 2006, seven more than the previous year.
Efforts being made by the military to reduce crime were covered during the meeting, including an Air Force initiative focused on dependents. The program resulted in the early departure of some people to the U.S. for inappropriate behavior, Kuramitsu said after the closed-door meeting.
The team also is working to increase Okinawa cultural awareness. A seminar sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, working with the U.S. military, was held in March for about 40 U.S. soldiers new to the island, he said.
The next seminar is planned for Marines in the fall, and Kuramitsu said he hopes to expand the program to all service branches and dependents.
The Cooperative Working Team includes officials with the U.S. military and State Department, the Okinawa prefectural government, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, and local government and business leaders.