Cyber patrols bring in 439 aged under 18

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Cyber patrols bring in 439 aged under 18ECPAT/STOP Japan

8:37 pm, March 12, 2015

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A total of 439 minors below the age of 18 were taken into police custody last year for such sexual delinquency as soliciting or trying to sell their underwear on the Internet, the National Police Agency reported Thursday.

It was the first time since the introduction of so-called cyber patrols in 2013 that the NPA had disclosed an entire year’s data on police taking minors into custody as a result of such patrols.

Internet patrolling led to the arrests of many men who paid money for sex with minors, but there were more than 10,000 cases in which police were unable to contact minors to take them into custody, even though the police had sent them e-mails to meet in person. Investigations need to be more efficient, the NPA said.

The NPA instructed prefectural police across the country to introduce cyber patrols in October 2013. Police patrol the Internet, and undercover officers send e-mails to minors, mainly those aged below 18, who have posted online messages for such purposes as soliciting or selling their underwear, aiming to contact them and take them into custody.

According to the NPA, Internet patrols led to police taking 501 minors into custody last year. Of that number, 439 were younger than 18.

Girls accounted for 422, or about 96 percent, of those under 18, and high school students accounted for 309, or about 70 percent. Forty-five of those under 18, or about 10 percent, were middle school students.

Seventeen-year-olds made up the largest group among those under 18, with 194 people. The youngest was a 13-year-old first-year middle school student.

It was the first time to be held or taken into custody for 266, or about 60 percent, of the 439 minors under 18.

According to the NPA, 321 minors aged below 18 put up postings related to such activities as soliciting or selling their underwear on online bulletin boards to exchange identification codes or via dating apps.

Social networking services, including Twitter, were used by 107 minors aged below 18, while dating sites were used by 11.

Among 330 minors aged below 18 whom police have investigated since April last year, 320, or 97 percent, used smartphones to make postings.

Minors often use coded phrases such as “I’m a JK” in those postings to find a man willing to pay money for sex. JK means joshikosei, or a female high school student. According to the NPA, about 1,500 minors met strangers through those postings and fell victim to sexual crimes last year.

Last year, police took action in 127 cases over violations of the Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography after uncovering criminal cases by taking minors into custody as a result of cyber patrols.

Police found a 16-year-old high school girl in Shiga Prefecture who was soliciting through an online bulletin board, and took her into custody. However, the police eventually discovered that a 20-year-old man whom the high school student had asked to help her with a problem had forced her to sell herself.

The police arrested the man and others on suspicion of violation of the Child Welfare Law.

However, there were 11,051 cases last year in which police tried to contact minors but were unable to do so or exchange e-mails.

“Unlike cases in which police take minors into custody on the street, police are unable to contact minors in many cases, and this eats up time,” an NPA official said. “We don’t want them to post casually, so they won’t be embroiled in serious crimes. Parents should carefully monitor how their children use smartphones.

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