Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Rare Mass Killing Raises Questions about Security in Japan

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Rare Mass Killing Raises Questions about Security in Japan

Article excerpt

TOKYO - The killing of 19 people at a home for the mentally disabled raised questions about whether Japan's reputation as one of the safest countries in the world is creating a false sense of security. The deadliest mass killing in Japan in the post-World War II era unfolded early Tuesday in Sagamihara, a city about 30 miles west of central Tokyo, when authorities say a former employee broke into the facility and stabbed more than 40 people before calmly turning himself in to police.

The suspect, identified as 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, had worked at the facility from 2014 until February, when he was let go. He wrote to Parliament outlining the bloody plan and saying all disabled should be put to death.

While not immune to violent crime, Japan has a relatively low homicide rate of well under one per 100,000 people. Mass killings usually are seen half a world away on the nightly news, although seven Japanese were among the dead in a recent hostage-taking in Bangladesh that targeted non-Muslims.

Because such massacres are rare, Japan has become overconfident about its safety, a Japanese criminologist said.

For crime prevention, the country relies on its social system in which a group mentality sacrifices individual freedom for collective safety, said Nobuo Komiya, a criminology professor at Rissho University in Tokyo.

As a result, it has neglected risk management, he said.

"Japan has put an emphasis on not creating criminals, but it is reaching a breaking point, Komiya said. "Like in foreign countries, I think institutions need to develop a plan in operational management and prepare for a worst-case scenario, given that criminals are inevitably born.

Mass killings have happened in Japan from time to time. In 2001, a man with a history of mental illness killed eight children in a knife attack at an elementary school in Osaka. The attack prompted increased security measures for schools. In 2008, a man rammed a rented two-ton truck into a crowd of shoppers at a busy Tokyo intersection, then jumped out and began stabbing people, killing seven.

Japan has very strict gun laws that might lessen violent crime, but they can't stamp it out. …

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