The National Police Agency has included expenses to beef up measures against the persistent problem of stalking, in its budgetary requests for fiscal 2015. Both the central and local authorities are urged to work together with relevant parties to take further steps to effectively curb and eradicate stalking and protect the victims.
According to the NPA, there were some 21,000 cases of damage caused by stalkers and some 49,000 cases of domestic violence — both record figures — in 2013. There is a large number of cases in which victims who had fled their homes due to domestic violence were being stalked by their former spouses, partners or lovers.
The police have often come under fire for being unable to take sufficient action to prevent stalker attacks even though they had been contacted by the victims for help.
For example, a high school girl in Mitaka, Tokyo, was stabbed to death last October just outside her home by a man from Kyoto who had been stalking her — on the very same day she had approached the local police for help. A Mitaka police officer whom the girl spoke with did not recognize that she was in imminent danger and failed to report her situation to his superior.
In a December 2011 case involving the murders of a stalking victim’s mother and grandmother by the stalker in Saikai, Nagasaki Prefecture, the police in Chiba, where the stalking victim lived, Mie, from which the stalker hailed, and Nagasaki prefectures had all been contacted by the victim beforehand. However, poor communication among the three police forces and a lack of a sense of crisis among the police officers concerned are believed to be key factors in why the murders were not prevented.
Drawing lessons from these and other cases, police forces nationwide added officers from their criminal investigation section to the consultation desk for stalking victims — which had earlier been solely manned by officers from the community security section — by April this year in an attempt to create a system that can help stalking victims and investigate stalkers in an integrated fashion.
Such steps resulted in some cases in which the police of different prefectures communicated with each other and succeeded in protecting victims from stalker attacks.
Still, a woman was murdered by a man in Osaka in May after she sought help from the local police after being stalked by a man who had earlier been arrested and was given a suspended jail term for assaulting his former wife, and had defied a court order banning contact with her.
In its budgetary requests for fiscal 2015, the NPA has asked for some ¥364 million to deal with stalkers and domestic violence, including ¥133 million to cover expenses to accommodate up to 7,500 stalking victims in hotels to shield them from stalkers. The NPA also plans to increase the number of local police officers in charge of stalking and domestic violence by 2,000 within three years.
These efforts must also be supported by legal and other measures. The NPA should seriously consider proposals made by a group of experts on Aug. 5, including the introduction of severer punishments under the stalker-control law to serve as an effective deterrent against stalking. The experts also called for enabling the head of each prefectural police to issue an order enabling punishment to stop stalking in emergency cases, without first having to wait for the prefectural public safety commission to issue advance warnings.
The group also proposed that the law be revised so that it can take action against stalkers sending persisting messages to victims through social networking services. Also important will be the implementation of a program in which government ministries and agencies concerned and mental hospitals cooperate to give psychological treatment to repeat offenders.
The NPA should fully consult with lawmakers and experts to translate these proposals into concrete form.