• Kyodo

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Police in Saitama Prefecture failed to follow up on 66 juvenile crime cases between 1997 and 2000 even after suspects had been identified, police officials said Tuesday.

The cases can no longer be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired or the suspects have become adults, they said.

This is something that should not have happened, Sadakazu Tanigaki, head of the National Public Safety Commission, told a regularly scheduled news conference.

Tanigaki added that handling juvenile cases is a “large pillar” of police activities. He said authorities would review current personnel distribution to try to make up for any under-staffing in sections dealing with juvenile crime.

Five police officers have received warnings, the officials said.

Of the 66 cases, the Hanno and Tokorozawa police stations failed to fully investigate 37. Two other stations, which have not been named, are apparently responsible for doing nothing with the remaining 29 cases.

A former police inspector at the Hanno station did not investigate 29 cases because he said he could not establish the suspects’ criminal intent, they said.

He later put the relevant documents in storage and left for another post without notifying his successor of the cases, they said. The statute of limitations on 18 of the cases ran out, while 11 others could no longer be dealt with by family courts because the suspects had passed the age of 20.

At the Tokorozawa Police Station, officers simply forgot to process eight of the juvenile cases. In the meantime, the statute of limitations expired on one, and the suspects in the seven others outgrew the family court, they said.

Saitama Prefectural Police sent the cases shelved by the Hanno and Tokorozawa police stations to the Kawagoe branch of the Saitama District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2002, two police officers at the Higashi-Matsuyama Police Station were punished after it was learned that 68 juvenile crime cases at the station had been left to collect dust.

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