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OKINAWA CITY — There will be no cameras surveilling the bustling streets in this city’s entertainment district.

Citing privacy concerns of its citizens, the city government has decided against installing security cameras in the popular shopping and club district just outside Kadena Air Base’s Gate Two.

"After studying the public consensus, we determined that it is still premature to carry out the project," said Kazunari Ishimine, deputy chief of the city’s Community Division.

"The general public is yet to be keen to have security cameras in the proposed entertainment area," he said.

According to a street survey the city conducted in August, while 87 percent of the respondents said that having security cameras might be necessary depending on where they are placed, only 11 percent said it is necessary to install cameras in the Gate Two bar district, he said.

About 60 percent of the respondents voiced their concern about privacy issues, Ishimine said.

The installation of surveillance cameras has been discussed since September 2006 and was resurrected in March in the wake of several alleged crimes by U.S. servicemembers.

In the most serious incident, a 38-year-old Marine staff sergeant was charged with rape after he picked up a 14-year-old Okinawa girl outside an ice cream parlor on Gate Two Street and later assaulted her near the Chatan seawall.

The Marine was later court-martialed and found guilty of molesting the girl.

In the wake of the incidents, the Okinawa Cooperative Working Team — comprised of representatives of the U.S. and Japanese governments, the U.S. military, Okinawa prefecture, the municipal governments that host military bases and business owners in the bar districts — discussed several options for beefing up security in the area.

The proposal to install cameras in the area was backed by the Tokyo government and prefectural police, but was nixed by Okinawa City.

Ishimine said it was a very sensitive issue. He stressed that it was not just a way to check on the behavior of servicemembers.

"Surveillance cameras should be used in the interest of crime prevention in a broad sense," he said. "Whether they are Okinawans or people in the military or tourists from the mainland, no particular group should be singled out."

In the months that followed the February incidents, military officials placed severe restrictions on all personnel connected with the military and their families, temporarily banning any activity outside the bases.

The restrictions have since been lifted; however, there are beefed-up "courtesy patrols" of uniformed, noncommissioned officers who routinely check on popular bars on weekend nights.

Those patrols are supported by the Okinawa City Entertainment Association, a network of bar owners who allow the patrols into their establishments. Participating bars and clubs post signs welcoming the patrols and vowing not to provide alcohol to minors or intoxicated patrons.


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