In response to the latest homicide case involving a U.S. base worker, the government established the “Okinawa regional safety patrol unit” to prevent similar incidents. The program began with 20 vehicles, but it has been learned that the unit will be fully operational with the originally planned 100 vehicles and 200 personnel this fall at the earliest. More time is apparently required for the government-sponsored crime prevention measures apparently to be fully implemented.
New funding is needed to obtain the necessary vehicles and hire part-time patrol personnel. Currently, the Cabinet Office and the Defense Ministry, which are in charge of implementing the program, are conducting coordination on incorporating the necessary funds into the supplementary budget that will be deliberated in the upcoming extraordinary Diet session.
On August 1, the government increased the number of vehicles and personnel in the patrol unit to 50 vehicles and 100 personnel. Former Okinawa General Bureau management personnel have been assigned to the patrol mission, and the bureau has begun hiring part-time patrol personnel by recruiting former police officers and others through staffing agencies. However, it has been disclosed that about 70 Defense Ministry personnel dispatched from outside Okinawa to assist the patrol mission have been actually assigned to control protest activities by local residents to security at the U.S. military Northern Training Area, the proposed helipad construction site. In order to hire more part-timers, the ministry plans to earmark personnel expenses to be included in the supplementary budget.
“The Cabinet Office is really supposed to be responsible for the patrol mission,” complained a Defense Ministry official. “The patrol mission has been keeping us busy,” said another official.
Local residents continue to complain that “the patrol unit is not a fundamental solution to the problem.” The government stresses that it is “for the benefit of Okinawa,” but the public may begin questioning the government’s use of funds.