Okinawa team patrols areas near US bases, nightlife spots
By AARON KIDD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 15, 2016
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Japanese officials are patrolling areas in southwestern Okinawa in an effort to prevent crimes near U.S. military bases and entertainment districts.
The team, composed of about 40 staff members from Okinawa government agencies, was created after a former Marine working at Kadena Air Base was arrested May 19 in connection with the death of a 20-year-old Okinawan woman, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday.
The patrol vehicles, which use blue rotating lights, are on the streets between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., the report said. The number of police officers patrolling the island prefecture is also expected to increase.
Last week, Japanese police recommended rape and murder charges for Kenneth Franklin Gadson, who goes by his Japanese wife’s family name of Shinzato. Police say he hit Rina Shimabukuro on the head with a stick and stabbed her during an attempted rape.
The incident, along with other crimes in recent weeks involving Americans with ties to the U.S. military, have strained U.S.-Japan relations, particularly on Okinawa, where half of U.S. troops in Japan are based, and fueled anti-base protests. A large demonstration is scheduled for Sunday.
Seaman Apprentice Justin Castellanos, 24, a corpsman assigned to Camp Schwab, pleaded guilty May 27 to raping an intoxicated woman at a Naha hotel in March, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, assigned to Kadena, was arrested June 5 on suspicion of drunken driving after causing two vehicle accidents and injuring two passengers by driving the wrong way on an Okinawa highway.
A monthlong period of unity and mourning in memory of Shimabukuro was announced on May 28 by Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, who also moved the curfew for Okinawa servicemembers up by an hour to midnight and banned off-base alcohol consumption.
New Navy restrictions triggered by Mejia’s arrest that banned alcoholic beverages and nonessential off-base activities were replaced last week by a requirement for sailors in Japan to file daily off-base activity plans, or one activity plan covering the weekend. The alcohol ban remains in effect.
Japanese officials are patrolling areas in southwestern Okinawa in an effort to prevent crimes near U.S. military bases and nightlife areas, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. The patrol vehicles, which use blue rotating lights, are on the streets between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., the report said.
SCREENSHOT FROM NHK