CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — In anticipation of an eventual lifting of the ban on consuming alcohol at off-base establishments, Marines on Okinawa are considering expanding their courtesy patrols in popular bar districts.

The courtesy patrols are not connected to a proposal for joint patrols by military and Okinawa prefectural police now being considered by the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team.

“This would be an extension of the courtesy patrols that we have had for quite some time in Kin, Henoko and with the Air Force on Gate Two Street,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Powell, spokesman for U.S. Marines in Japan.

Before the current 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew and ban on off-base consumption of alcohol for all active-duty servicemembers, the Marines had courtesy patrols made up mostly of uniformed staff noncommissioned officers in Kin, adjacent to Camp Hansen. Patrols in conservative civilian clothing kept an eye on Henoko, adjacent to Camp Schwab, and in the Kitamae district of Chatan.

They also conducted patrols with the Air Force in the Gate Two and Park Avenue area of Okinawa City, outside Kadena Air Base.

“We’re considering expanding the areas to include American Village [in Chatan], Futenma [in Ginowan] and possibly Nago, too,” Powell said Wednesday.

He said expanding the patrols remains in the discussion stage.

“It’s in anticipation of the eventual easing of the alcohol restriction, but we can’t speculate on when that might be,” he said.

The patrols are reminiscent of Navy shore patrols, but without any law enforcement. Instead, the members spend several off-duty hours, usually weekend nights, walking the streets, talking to business owners and watching for any problems. They are instructed to contact Japanese police when confronted with any serious misbehavior by servicemembers.

The issue of expanding courtesy patrols — and possibly conducting joint patrols with Okinawa police — came up in the weeks following several high-profile criminal incidents in February involving people connected to the U.S. military, including two alleged rapes.

Powell said the idea of joint police patrols continues to be discussed by the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team, which is made up of representatives from the U.S. military, the U.S. and Japanese governments, prefectural and municipal governments in areas that host the bases, and owners of businesses in the bar districts.

The joint police patrol was first suggested by the Japanese government, but it has been resisted by Okinawa police, who demand that servicemembers arrested or detained for infractions outside the bases be placed in their custody pending legal action.

Under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, military personnel arrested by military police for crimes in the Japanese community usually remain in military custody until they are indicted in a Japanese court.

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