Yokosuka, local groups form anti-crime committee
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A joint committee of U.S. Navy and local Japanese groups and officials has formed to combat crime in Yokosuka, whoever commits it.
The effort was prompted by the Jan. 3 killing and robbery of a 56-year Yokosuka woman, for which a U.S. Navy airman is in custody, Yokosuka city officials said Wednesday.
But what started off as the “Committee to Prevent Crimes Committed by U.S. Servicemembers” turned into the “Downtown Yokosuka Public Safety Promotion Group” after a planning meeting last week, said John Niemeyer, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ) political civil advisor.
“We’re not the only ones who commit crimes,” he said. “This should be a group that’s willing to work together to make a safe neighborhood for everyone. We all live in Yokosuka together.”
The group consists of 25 people and will hold its first public meeting March 29.
Members will tackle topics such as installing surveillance cameras around Yokosuka’s downtown and will make specific recommendations for crime prevention.
Several groups are represented, including the Yokosuka police, Kanagawa Prefectural Office, Defense Facilities Administration Office, citizens, victims’ advocates and several neighborhood associations from around the Honch, the nightclub district outside of the base gates. CNFJ and base officials also will attend, Niemeyer said.
The council’s existence changes the old format of dealing with problems, said Nagatoshi Esashi, chief of Yokosuka’s Base Affairs division. Instead of the city requesting the Navy to take action after a crime, they will work cooperatively to prevent it, he said.
“It is something where police, residents, administrators and the U.S. military work together to be proactive to make a better city,” Esashi said.
Some incidents are triggered by troubles between Americans and Japanese so the council needs to hear from several other factions, such as residents and police, not just the Navy, Esashi said.
Niemeyer supported such a broad base for the committee, saying the Navy won’t support a group devoted to one-way finger-pointing.
“Obviously, there is some political pressure by those groups who want us out of Japan because that’s their agenda,” he said. “But our hope is that this will stay in a positive direction and that we’ll achieve constructive results. We seem to be on the right track.”