Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tokyo Crime Wave

If you live anywhere in the world outside the United States and listen to our news broadcasts, you'd think that the country was awash in guns, people are being murdered everywhere, and no one can leave his heavily-guarded house for fear of becoming the victim of random street crime. This isn't actually the case. Yes, we are awash in guns (gun worship being the American national religion), but America is like everyplace else - as long as one is careful and avoids known dangerous areas, crime is not that much of a problem. Of course, I live in Washington, DC, where we are used to the elegant forms of criminal activity practiced more-or-less legally by Congress, so my opinion may be a bit skewed.

In the context of discussing criminal activity, this interesting article appeared in yesterday's Washington Post: "In Tokyo, a High-Pitched Whine Repels Teens, Attracts TV Crews."

Japan is a very law-abiding nation in which, according to the article, "Shootings are exceedingly rare. Most people don't lock their bikes. Lost wallets are returned." This is very bad for television news crews, which - in Japan as in the United States - thrive on the lurid reporting of terrifying crimes (as the news adage goes, "if it bleeds, it leads"). If you're a Japanese news reporter, what do you do to earn your daily bread in a country where everyone - even the criminals - is polite?

According to the article filed by Blaine Hardin of the Washington Post Foreign Service, "By Tokyo standards, Kitashikahama Park in Adachi Ward is a crime-infested hellhole. Thirteen acts of vandalism have been committed there in the past year. Toilet seats and windows have been broken. Spent firecrackers have been found. Some residents living near the park have lost sleep. The perpetrators, still on the loose, are believed to be neighborhood teenagers, probably in junior high school."

And what was the plan to clean up this crime-infested hellhole? Simple. Put up a sound system that broadcasts a noise that irritates teenage ears, but is inaudible to adults, and which will thus encourage the teens to take their terrifying crime spree elsewhere.

As I read the article, I wondered what type of sound would irritate teenage ears that enjoy rap and heavy metal music, but it seems to work ... except that now the formerly crime-infested hellhole is now crowded every night with TV news crews looking for the would-be criminals to see if they were really chased away by the noise.

Yes, Mr Hardin's article goes on quote Haruyuki Masuda, head of park management in Adachi Ward: "We see them (TV news crews) on the surveillance videos, and there are too many of them to count ... They hide behind trees and bushes. They are waiting for kids to come. I think they have scared off the kids."

So, there's a potential new counter to street crime in DC: station TV news crews everywhere to scare off the criminals. It just might work. And even if it doesn't, they'll probably catch some Congressman in a criminal act involving payoffs or illicit sex, which is almost as good. With 535 Senators and Reprehensives to choose from, it could keep our news crews busy for a long time.

We could do worse.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

Strange news indeed!

Mike said...

This could be reverse reporting about crime. There are some nieghborhoods in St. Louis that this would be considered a crime wave. Others that would pray for so little so called criminal activity.

Leslie David said...

In Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point the NYC police decided to start with policing small incident and see what happened. They tackled graffitti and subway jumpers and overall crime went down.

I do like the phrase, "crime-infested hellhole."

Daniel said...

Noise -
As to the noise, there was some studies a couple of years ago that identified certain frequencies that adult people cannot hear, the receptors in the ears just die with age. There are actually ringtones on certain phones that teenagers can use that their teachers/parents cannot hear. And they found that if they broadcast annoying noise at that freq, kids would stay away from that area. A couple of places here in the States have experimented with it.

Kind of neat.