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In what has regrettably become a matter of routine recently, a senior regional police official has again publicly apologized for the ineffective handling by local police of a major case of alleged criminal activity. The latest instance involves the slowness of the Aichi Prefectural Police to begin investigating the alleged extortion from a 15-year-old Nagoya junior high school boy by some of his classmates, or former classmates, of more than 50 million yen over a nine-month period. Mr. Ken Nakajima, chief of the prefectural force’s safety-affairs department, acknowledged the failure to act even though the boy and his desperate mother sought assistance from the Midori Police Station last July.

The police earlier had insisted they did not follow up on the case because the boy refused to provide necessary pertinent details, and thus no official complaint had been filed. That begs the question of why at least a rudimentary investigation was not begun since the boy did give the names of three of the classmates involved. His fearful explanation that he had just been “lending” the money should have raised suspicions.

This is especially true since it is known that the Midori Police Station also failed to take action on three other reported incidents involving the same three 15-year-old boys, who along with a fourth youth have now been arrested and are said to have confessed. Earlier the police said in their own defense that they had been busy with other cases at the time. How busy could they have been that they failed to begin looking into this case for nine months, after the terrified boy and his mother had handed over such an immense amount of money?

More than money was involved in these incidents, however, in which an additional 10 youths may have taken part. The victim was also subjected to physical attacks that twice required his hospitalization. It is now known that one of the arrested youths had the arrogance to come to the boy’s hospital ward to demand more money. On another occasion, a fellow patient apparently chased away a group that was harassing him. Three of the arrested suspects are alleged to have later attacked the youth after his release, breaking two of his ribs and sending him back to the hospital. It is also reported that his upper body was covered with cigarette burns inflicted by his tormentors.

Where were the school authorities while all this was going on? Where were the parents of the suspects? It is strange that no alarms were raised, even though the alleged culprits rarely, if ever, attended school and are said to have flaunted their newfound “wealth” to their girlfriends, money they are said to have used largely to play video games and pachinko, for food and drink, and to pay for taxi rides from Nagoya all the way to Osaka and Tokyo. Yet no one seems to have wanted to believe the situation was serious, even after the victim’s mother took up the escalating demands with his home-room teacher last July 1.

School authorities say that after a subsequent meeting held at the school’s request with the boy and his mother, they took no further action because the victim would not say the money was actually being extorted from him. Their only advice was to take the matter up with the police. A teacher did prepare a report on the situation for the student supervision liaison committee, however, and it includes the names of the youths who have since been arrested, suggesting that the school did not, after all, regard the incident as entirely minor.

There are elements of sadness to this story because it involves ordinary citizens who found themselves with nowhere to turn in today’s self-centered society. They were rebuffed when they sought help from the obvious sources, despite the suspicions they should have aroused. That the young victim hesitated to provide some pertinent details was in itself a warning. His mother feared for her son’s safety and reportedly was concerned he might take his own life. With no close relatives or friends to consult, she used her own savings to meet the constant demands, including some 30 million yen in insurance money received following the death of her husband three years ago.

One of the most poignant aspects of this story lies in the discovery that the victim kept a notebook with a detailed itemization of each payment, with dates, amounts and names of those to whom the payments were made. The notebook also contains an eloquent plea for the return of the money since the bulk of it had been expected to be used for the future living expenses of the boy, his older sister and their mother. There have been no indications yet of remorse on the part of the suspects. No degree of regret, however, can repay this Nagoya family for their ordeal of the last nine months.

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