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The National Police Agency said Thursday that security camera networks will be installed in 15 residential areas in 14 prefectures as part of efforts to prevent crime and better protect children.

The announcement, however, prompted some citizen groups to complain that the move is an attempt by the police to boost surveillance of the public.

The police plan to launch the first such domestic residential network around next January, according to NPA officials.

They will entrust volunteer groups of residents to operate and manage the equipment and image data, they said.

The nation’s police forces “will help residents to secure safety by themselves,” an official at the agency said.

It will be the first time for the police to entrust such monitoring duties to residents groups.

The police currently have 363 security cameras in operation at busy shopping and entertainment urban districts across the country.

The NPA, which coordinates the prefectural police forces, said the police will discuss the details of operating the network with volunteer groups.

The agency has already earmarked ¥597 million in the government’s supplementary budget for the installation of the security camera networks and for the consultations with residents groups.

According to the agency’s plan, networks of 25 cameras will be installed mainly on streets used by children going to school.

Under the plan, video monitors and recorders will be installed in nonpolice facilities, including community centers, and residents groups will check screens when children are walking to and from school.

The 15 locations include the prefectural capitals of Otsu, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima and Fukuoka.

The 10 other areas are in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture; Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture; Toda, Saitama Prefecture; Higashiyamato and Musashimurayama, both suburban Tokyo; Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture; Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture; Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture; Iwade, Wakayama Prefecture; and Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture.

However, in some of the 15 locations no residents groups have so far been picked to take charge of the security networks.

Some citizen groups are critical of the plan, saying the government intends to strengthen surveillance on residents.

The police have told residents groups that they will put up notices that indicate the locations of security cameras. They have also pledged to use data collected only for the investigation of crimes and vowed to help protect citizens’ privacy.

Yasuhiko Tajima, professor of journalism at Sophia University who heads a citizens group against a so-called surveillance society, accused the government of trying to have residents keep watch on each other through the planned installation of security cameras.

The Musashimurayama Municipal Government in western Tokyo said a city official was called in to a nearby police station and asked to join the security camera network plan on June 11.

The city said it has yet to decide on the location for the cameras or on a resident group to operate and manage the network.

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