Two teens held in Okinawa shoplifting case
April 23, 2008
CHATAN, Okinawa — Two American teenagers remained in Okinawa police custody Monday following an alleged shoplifting incident Saturday.
The teens, a male and a female, both 18 years old and Marine dependents, were spotted at a Chatan store at about 5:50 p.m. by a clerk who allegedly saw them take and conceal a body-piercing kit from a shelf, an Okinawan police spokesman said Monday. The clerk alerted a security guard who called Okinawa prefectural police.
The case follows an incident the previous weekend when two teenage boys, ages 16 and 17 and also Marine dependents, were nabbed by store clerks for allegedly stealing jeans and T-shirts.
That case resulted in a protest by Okinawa police and prefectural officials, who complained that Marine MPs arriving at the scene before Okinawa police officers took the two into custody and refused to hand them over for questioning by the local police.
No MPs were present during Saturday’s incident.
The police spokesman said the suspects in Saturday’s case admitted they stole the piercing kit, valued at 2,520 Yen (about $25).
Their names were not released because they are considered minors under Japanese law. Marine officials were not available to comment on Saturday’s case.
The teens were apprehended about four hours after the alleged theft by officers who staked out their car parked in a nearby lot, the police spokesman said. The teens had been videotaped getting into the car following the alleged theft, he said.
“As police officers waited for the teens to return, they watched seven American teens get into the car, including the two suspects,” the police spokesman said. “We are investigating to see if they were involved in any other acts of shoplifting, since several other items stolen from other stores, including a pair of sneakers and T-shirts, were found in the car.”
Meanwhile, the police spokesman said his department received a reply from the Marines provost marshal’s office concerning the custody dispute in the earlier case. Okinawa police had earlier asked for an explanation for the refusal by the MPs to release the shoplifting suspects to the local police.
Okinawa police and Marine officials declined Monday to release the contents of the letter.
The base public affairs office told Stars and Stripes in an e-mail response to a query that the provost marshal’s office is cooperating with Japanese police in the investigation.
Asked whether the Marines are reviewing the policy on taking SOFA-status personnel into custody for alleged crimes committed off-base, spokesman Lt. Judd Wilson said “it would be inappropriate to speculate on future policy changes.”
Okinawa police continue to dispute the Marines’ contention that there was no request for custody.
“We made the request repeatedly at the scene,” the police spokesman said.
The teens have reported for questioning and remain in the custody of their parents, he said.