Yomitan mayor calls curfew too lenient

The curfew imposed last fall on American service personnel following the rape of a young Okinawan woman isn’t doing much good, in the eyes of a local mayor.

The mayor of Yomitan, Denjitsu Ishimine, says the military’s tactics are not strong enough, but too lenient, in fact.  That’s led him to file a protest this past week with the Foreign Ministry demanding more action be taken.  “I doubt that effective checking functions are in place,” he says, and “it has been simply left to individual service members whether they straighten themselves out.”

Statistics show law enforcement agencies had to take action against American military members in 29 criminal cases in November and December, well above the monthly average for the year, which totaled 118 cases.  At least four cases came in the aftermath of the curfew imposed October 19th.  In three of the incidents, the curfew was violated.

One of the cases involved a drunken airman from Kadena Air Base who, in Ishimine’s community, entered a home and punched a sleeping junior high school student.  The 24-year-old airman was injured while trying to flee from the third floor apartment.  The airman lived off base.

Some 15,000 American servicemen live off base, and that’s enough, says the Yomitan mayor, to cause problems.  He notes street patrols have not been an effective deterrent, noting the only thing base gate security guards can do is observe service members coming and going.  Reducing and consolidating the number of bases, says lawyer Toshio Ikemiyagi, is the only way to reduce incidents.  He says there are too many American GI’s in Japan, and too many U.S. bases located too close to residential areas.

A bar owner says some serU.S. bases located too close to residential areas.gi, is the only way to reduce incidents.  He says thvice members get in trouble after failing to return to base before curfew, and have to kill time until they can legally return in the morning.  That, he says, leads to inappropriate acts.  The Navy has said curfew violators face disciplinary action that could lead to demotions, but the bar owner says the Navy does not check to see which service members are off base after curfew.