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Bloggers in blue spread their net

by Yuhei Wada

Teenagers and marketers aren’t the only ones riding the social- media wave — several police departments in Japan have joined in, running their own community blogs to improve communication with residents.

The latest to join the blog craze are four chuzaisho (police stations that double as residences for officers’ families) in Kyushu’s Kumamoto Prefecture (ubuyama521.blog130.fc2.com, ituki001.blog31.fc2.com, gosyonoura007.blog106.fc2.com, sakitu525.blog115.fc2.com). Their main objective is to inform the public about criminal incidents in their communities and facilitate friendly interactions with police officers. Kumamoto Prefectural Police started running the blogs out of chuzaisho in Amakusa City and the villages of Ubuyama and Itsuki last month.

Through the blogs, Kumamoto police hope to focus on improving local security by reporting on an increase in finance-related crimes that especially target the elderly.

Officers also hope that increased local communication through blogs will help prevent kodokushi, elderly residents dying alone in their homes.

“(The elderly residents’) children and families living outside the town can check reports in the blogs and can contact elderly people if they see a problem,” says a representative of the local affairs division of the Kumamoto Prefectural Police (his name can not be reported due to security reasons). “We will promptly announce information on crime via the blogs when such cases occur in our jurisdiction.”

One inspiration for the Kumamoto blogs was the Yadoriki Chuzaisho Dayori Blog (yadoriki.exblog.jp/), which was started by an officer working in a remote area of Kanagawa Prefecture.

Featuring anticrime tips, town events and information on the surrounding landscape, the blog is peppered with photographs taken by the officer while on patrol and includes brief monologues about everyday life in the area.

Hikers and climbers planning to visit the mountainous areas around the station tend to be the blog’s main visitors, commenting on blog entries with questions about weather conditions and trail routes.

“The advantage of running blogs from police stations is that we can help people understand our job,” says the police blogger. “Also, we can publish information about the highlights of our town on the Internet from the viewpoint of an actual resident.”

One concern the police blogger has encountered involves broadcasting public information over the Internet.

“What I am mostly concerned about in running this blog are security issues,” says the officer. “I always pay close attention to handling personal information when I take photos and write blog entries.”

Both the Kumamoto and Kanagawa blogs monitor outside comments before publishing them online. Both say, however, they haven’t yet needed to deal with any negative posts.

Blogging offers police officers a dual role in their communities — as both guardians and active residents. There’s no word yet on nationwide initiatives on police blogging. Police Web sites serve the main purpose of providing residents with information related to crime. The chuzaisho is a different approach, one that officers hope will serve as a new bridge between the police and the public.