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NAHA, Okinawa — The number of Americans on Okinawa under the status of forces agreement, or SOFA, arrested for felony and major misdemeanor crimes continues to decrease, according to a recent report from Okinawa police.

During the first six months of 2007, police arrested 25 people under SOFA for serious crimes, a drop of 16.7 percent from the 30 individuals arrested during the same period last year.

However, the number of charges against those arrested rose by 64.3 percent, from 28 felony charges in the first six months of 2006 to 46 felony charges so far this year.

Satoshi Shimabukuro, chief of the Okinawa Prefectural Police’s International Criminal Investigation Office, said the decrease in the number of Americans arrested continues a trend that began in 2003.

“Up until then, there was a rising trend,” Shimabukuro said. “But since 2004, it has shifted to a downturn. The six-month figures show that the downturn trend in the number of persons arrested continues.”

Shimabukuro said police have not thoroughly studied the six-month statistics, something they do not routinely do until the year-end statistics are tabulated. However, since the numbers are small to begin with, any rise or fall looks to be more significant than it actually is, he said.

The drop in the number of individuals arrested so far this year — 25 compared with 30 in the first half of 2006 — was due mainly to a drop in the number of minor dependents arrested, from 10 in 2006 to four so far this year. The number of active-duty servicemembers arrested dropped by one, from 20 in the first half of 2006 to 19 so far this year.

The number of charges filed against Americans in the first half of this year rose because more individuals had multiple charges filed against them, according to Okinawa police.

The biggest increase was in the “intellectual” category, with 14 charges against three people compared with three charges against one person during the same period in 2006.

The 14 charges stemmed from an incident in which three servicemembers were suspected of going on a spree with a stolen credit card.

“This case in particular contributed to pushing up the number of charges,” Shimabukuro said.

Okinawa and U.S. military officials have attributed the decline in the numbers of SOFA personnel arrested to stricter liberty policies.

“Although the number of arrests may have decreased, we feel that even one arrest or incident is too many,” said Maj. Dani Johnson, 18th Wing public affairs chief.

“The 18th Wing is committed to ensuring that appropriate actions are taken against individuals who commit crimes, and we continue to offer a variety of programs and initiatives, including newcomer orientation classes and youth and family activities, to educate base residents on their responsibilities and duties consistent with maintaining the highest level of professionalism and being good neighbors in the local community.”

Marine 1st Lt. Garron Garn, media relations officer for Marine Corps Bases Japan, said most Marines “respect and abide by both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and civilian local laws.”

“Those Marines who break the law are few and far between, and they are dealt with in an appropriate manner by the chain of command and the Marine Corps,” he wrote in response to a query.

“The U.S. Marine Corps on Okinawa is committed to educating its Marines on proper conduct at all times, both on and off base,” Garn said.

“Programs like the uniformed courtesy patrol and gate sobriety checks have proven to be effective measures in preventing off-base incidents,” he said.

“Safety stand downs, the liberty card policy and a command climate here on Okinawa that promotes responsibility and accountability are also integral in preventing incidents.”

The number of arrests of people linked to the U.S. military was 1.2 percent of all arrests on the island for the first half of the year, compared with 1.4 percent of all the arrests made in the first half of 2006.

There are about 42,570 Americans living on Okinawa under SOFA, or about 3 percent of the prefecture’s 1.4 million people.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.

How Japanese police break down categories of crime, count arrests

Okinawa prefecture groups its crime statistics into six major categories:

Heinous crimes involving murder, rape, robbery and arson.Violent crimes involving assaults, blackmail and extortion.Thefts, which include burglaries, car thefts and muggings.Intellectual crimes involving fraud and counterfeiting.Moral offenses such as gambling, indecent assault and molestation.Other — includes vandalism and trespassing.According to the police report for the first half of this year, four people under the status of forces agreement were arrested for heinous crimes, one for a violent crime, 12 for thefts, three for intellectual crimes and five for trespassing.

By the numbers

Status of forces agreement personnel arrested on Okinawa

January-June 2007:

25 individuals arrested on 46 charges.19 active duty, including five minors (younger than 20).Six dependents, including four minors.January-June 2006:

30 individuals on 28 charges.20 active duty, including five minors.10 dependents, all minors.Total arrests on Okinawa

(Includes SOFA personnel)

January-June 2007:

2,025 individuals arrested on 3,556 charges.

January-June 2006:

— David Allen

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