Better stalking measures needed

Two murders in Nagasaki Prefecture in December 2011 show that the police are ineffective in preventing stalking-related crime. Police nationwide need to improve their methods for deterring stalkers, including how and when to share information with different police units. They should not forget that a stalker may attack relatives in addition to the targeted person.

A 27-year-old man from Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, was arrested on Dec. 17 on suspicion of murdering a 56-year-old woman and a 77-year-old woman in Saikai, Nagasaki Prefecture, the day before. The victims turned out to be the mother and grandmother of a 27-year-old woman whom the suspect, Gota Tsutsui, had repeatedly stalked. She had lived in Chiba Prefecture but returned to Nagasaki Prefecture in late October.

Since Tsutsui repeatedly acted violently toward her, stalked her and sent her threatening e-mail, her father consulted with the Nagasaki, Chiba and Mie prefectural police. On Dec. 12, she and her father visited the Narashino police station in Chiba Prefecture and submitted a report on injuries she had received from Tsutsui. On Dec. 14, the Chiba prefectural police started a criminal investigation. By that time, the police had questioned Tsutsui on a voluntary basis and issued a warning three times without taking him into custody.

The tragedy occurred two days after the start of the criminal investigation. It is suspected that Tsutsui, who had returned to Mie Prefecture in early December, broke into the house of the woman’s grandmother in Saikai on Dec. 16 and murdered the stalking victim’s grandmother and mother. Tsutsui reportedly confessed to the murders.

The father recalled that when he consulted with the police at one point, he was told to wait a week and that the police told him they could not arrest the man immediately because the documents submitted to the police were inadequate.

Although the law to prevent stalking was enacted in 2000, the police are careful about starting investigation into these cases. In 2010, the police nationwide recognized more than 16,000 such cases but investigated only 229. The National Police Agency should develop a system of more efficient communication between prefectural police headquarters. The police also should seek help and expertise from organizations that have deeper knowledge and expertise in dealing with stalkers and domestic violence.