The Yomiuri Shimbun July 25, 2013
Children deserve to have a safe and crime-free summer vacation
School is out for summer, and children are free to play outdoors. Yet even at this happy time, measures must be taken to ensure no children fall victim to crimes during their summer vacation.
In late June, a man with a knife injured three first-grade primary school students in front of the gate to a ward primary school in Nerima Ward, Tokyo. The incident took place while the boys were on their way home from school. In mid-July, a fifth-grade primary school student suffered serious injuries when she was beaten by a man on the street in Ryugasaki, Ibaraki Prefecture.
National Police Agency statistics remind us of the disturbing reality that not even children under 13 are safe from criminals. Crimes against them include a significant number of serious offenses, such as sexual assaults and attacks resulting in grave injuries.
Parents should immediately call the police if their children have been spoken to or followed by suspicious persons.
Adults must stay on guard
It is essential for the police to thoroughly investigate such cases, while also providing information about suspicious individuals to local organizations likely to be affected by such incidents, including school authorities and neighborhood associations.
School administrators have taken measures to better protect the safety of their students in recent years. The move was prompted by a stabbing incident that took place in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in 2001 at a primary school affiliated with Osaka Kyoiku University. Eight students at Ikeda Primary School were killed by a knife-wielding man, and many others were injured.
Ikeda Primary School has set up a class called “anzen-ka” (safety course) in which students are encouraged to discuss what they should do if they face such situations as total strangers talking to them on the street. An increasing number of schools are adopting similar safety education programs.
A large number of primary and middle schools have installed security cameras and other protective devices around their buildings and grounds, hoping to detect any suspicious person attempting to intrude.
In other cases, parents accompany their children to and from school, while crime-prevention volunteers from neighborhood associations patrol school-commuting roads. Local communities are making progress in implementing various steps to prevent children from becoming crime victims.
However, defense of children tends to become lax during the summer vacation. Particular attention should be given to the safety of children during certain hours of the day–for instance, when they are playing outdoors, and while they are on their way to and from cram schools and or swimming courses. At such times, it is difficult for grown-ups to keep an eye on children. Given this, it is advisable to make sure children carry crime prevention buzzers with them when they go out, so they can sound an alarm if necessary.
Teach kids to be alert
Most importantly, children should be taught how to escape from crimes targeting them. They need to develop such awareness on a routine basis, when it comes to averting potential danger.
For instance, it is a good idea for both parents and children to confirm whether any hazards exist in their neighborhood, such as a vacant house into which children could be taken or an unlit street. Parents would be well advised to tell their children to stay away from such high-risk places.
In many areas around the nation, shops, private homes and other buildings have been designated as emergency shelters for children. Those in charge of such shelters agree to provide temporary protection for children who encountered danger, and report it to the police. If they have been taught where such facilities are located, children will be able to run to the shelter when they recognize danger.
Other facilities that can play a role in crime prevention include convenience stores that stay open round the clock or till late at night.
It is essential for families and local communities to join hands in making sure children can spend the summer vacation in safety.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2013)