Japan Times: NPA to entrust neighborhood assoc. with more policing powers, spy cameras


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Hi Blog. Here’s something I find alarming. Not satisfied to plop spy cameras in places festered with foreigners, as Ishihara would put it, the NPA is now planning to plop even more in cities nationwide, and turn the keys over to unprofessionals who are not officially entrusted with police powers: neighborhood associations.

The very reason we have chounaikai was to help the kenpeitai and other devices of the wartime Japanese police state keep watch on their neighbors. That the chounaikai still exists essentially as organizations to keep a semblance of volunteerism alive in principalities, I object to the revival of them as a policing agency. The NPA already spends enough of our taxes putting up posters exhorting people to “watch your neighbors — they might be political extremists!” Now they’re getting cameras, with peeping and recording eyes? Yeah, I can imagine what sort of people those beady eyes will be gravitating towards. Anyone who looks “funny”, or “suspicious”. Guess who I mean.

The article, excerpted below. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The Japan Times, Friday, June 26, 2009
Residential streets to get cop cameras
Neighborhood groups to be in charge: NPA
Kyodo News
The National Police Agency said Thursday that security camera networks will be installed in 15 residential areas in 14 prefectures as part of efforts to prevent crime and better protect children.

Full article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090626a1.html

Coming to a street near you: A surveillance camera hangs over a street in the Roppongi district in Tokyo. The National Police Agency said Thursday police will set up security cameras in 15 residential areas in 14 prefectures. KYODO PHOTO

The announcement, however, prompted some citizen groups to complain that the move is an attempt by the police to boost surveillance of the public.

The police plan to launch the first such domestic residential network around next January, according to NPA officials.

They will entrust volunteer groups of residents to operate and manage the equipment and image data, they said.

The nation’s police forces “will help residents to secure safety by themselves,” an official at the agency said.

It will be the first time for the police to entrust such monitoring duties to residents groups…

The 15 locations include the prefectural capitals of Otsu, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima and Fukuoka.

The 10 other areas are in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture; Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture; Toda, Saitama Prefecture; Higashiyamato and Musashimurayama, both suburban Tokyo; Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture; Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture; Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture; Iwade, Wakayama Prefecture; and Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture.

[NB: Why these places, I wonder? Wonder under what criteria they were chosen?]

15 comments on “Japan Times: NPA to entrust neighborhood assoc. with more policing powers, spy cameras

  • Well, if they do it in my area, I’ll be sure to try and join the residents group.
    Anyone out there a member of one these groups? Or is there some prohibition on NJ joining?

  • My guess would be they chose those places because the citizens would be less likely to complain. That way if they decide to roll it out nationwide they can point to their test locations and say “trust us, it’s going to be fine, we never had any complaints/problems in these areas.” At least that’s how I would do it if I was in charge.

  • Tornadoes28 says:

    That’s crazy. They want to “entrust” volunteer groups of residents to operate and manage the cameras? Volunteer groups of private citizens should not be allowed to operate and monitor public surveillance cameras. It should be done only by a legal government agency and the cameras should only be placed in places with valid statistically higher rates of crime. Not in places with higher concentrations of foreigners.

  • well if you live in rural areas-almost everyone is in a chonaikai..
    they are hard to escape..
    however its registered in my wifes name as foreigners dont have juuminhyo
    dont know how it works for families of foreigners though with the juuminhyo thing

    — Well, I had no problem joining my chounaikai when living in a rural town for years. In fact, they wanted me as VP after only two years there. They needed volunteers, collect money and organize things, which nobody wanted to do. It was a very benign organization, which is why I’m not opposed to them in principle.

    I object, however, to the police using them as an arm of policing. I see great potential for abuse, both historically and practically.

  • The UK is the most surveilled state in the world, with 1/4 of all CCTV cameras worldwide. It does not reduce crime, and has no function other than to encourage voyeurism by the authorities. (In the UK, there have been case after case of CCTV operators redirecting cameras to spy on young women changing and in the shower, etc.)
    If we publicise enough of these facts, maybe even the normally acquiescent Japanese will protest enough to make Japanese big brother back off.

  • I found it interesting that the places where the cameras are going to be installed and monitored by volunteers are in places renowned for biker gangs and young people who vandalize public property. I wouldn’t trust the police doing this anyways as it raises too many privacy issues. Glad to see some communities getting active especially in the places named in the article. Local communities have been pretty active lately with dispersing loiterers in parks/public areas, especially with those sound emitters that older people can’t hear.

  • Any pictures of these “police your neighbors” posters?

    — Go down to your local police box and look at their wanted posters posted outside. I have one on my wall in my office. Need it scanned?

  • When I read this, and other recent stories of the JP Police, it just confirms to me that the PD is either incompetent, can’t or won’t do their job.
    Handing surveillance over to civilians, racial profiling (http://www.debito.org/?p=3730), this is all very troubling.

  • Reminds me vaguely of the British comedy film Hot Fuzz, where the police and neighbourhood watch… well, I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it, but recommended viewing.

    Only of course, this isn’t a film – it’s real life. Worrying.

  • Recently the building I live in put up a poster warning about suspicious looking foreigners and reporting them to the proper authorities. Being the only forienger in my building I became rather upset with the poster. I am still considering if its worth my time to complain to the building manager or just let sleeping dogs sleep.

    My wife (Japanese) concured with me and she even admitted it was totally uncalled for considering the situation with one foreigner (me) living in the building. She felt it was like saying, “keep an eye on Johnny Foreigner he might throw out the ‘pet’ bottles on the ‘pura’ day.”

    — Don’t be a victim. Take the poster down yourself. Keep it as evidence, or as a trophy. You are under no obligation to abide by hateful public speech of this sort, especially in your living space.

  • jcek,

    take the offensive poster down.
    then go and find the person who put it up and complain loudly.
    im sure he will say its not aimed at you,but thats neither here nor there.
    its racist as there is no reason to aim for foreign crime when its such a tiny part of total crime.

  • I think it is one of the NPA crime watch warning posters that are distributed to bulletin boards across the country. It looks like some offical document. Will take a picture tonight and send it to debito’s email and post to blog (its ok?). Then I will go with my wife (My Japanese language ability is not up to par) and basically complain to the building manager about this situation. Hopefully some solution will result. Thanks for the advice all most appreciated.

    — Yes, please send! debito@debito.org

  • I used to jokingly refer to our local ji-ji-kai as the Taliban, and the local kumi-cho as Mullah Omar. They used to supervise our placing of the correct bottles etc. into the appropriate collection containers, and write down who’d been drinking wine, sake etc. etc. or who’d bought a new TV or stereo. Seems my designation wasn’t far off, unfortunately.

  • What started out as a benign Neighborhood Watch evolved into a vigilante group of old folks playing cops and robbers patrolling the neighborhood in official-looking jackets with light sabers to something that is really starting to urk me. Although I have had no direct contact with members, I have been given the ol’-move-along-and-keep-your-nose-clean stink eye from an old guy who occasionally stands post at the local elementary school across from my apartment. The only thing missing are the mirrored sunglasses and the “What we have here, is a failure to communicate!” line. “Comin’ out now Boss?! Goin’ to work Boss?! Being foreign here Boss!”

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    As unpleasant as these cameras are, I’d still rather have them monitored by local do-gooders than by police officers.

    A police officer, even if he knows your face and knows very well that you’re not a criminal, is still going to give you the third degree if his boss is watching or if he’s got orders to.

    The elderly busybodies that run the neighborhood associations can be argued with and outright defied if you really want to. They can’t arrest you, can’t toss you in a holding cell incognito for three weeks, and can’t fabricate evidence that could ruin your life. I’d gladly endure the evil eye from someone who can’t actually stop and detain me.

    They also tend to have more of a sense of humanity than a young police officer who sees any non-Japanese face as a potential criminal. You’d be surprised how non-racist, non-nativist, and anti-authoritarian many Japanese people over 70 can be.


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