Members of the non-profit organization Guardian Angel have little left to do in Kitakyushu after the government stepped up its crackdown on crime.
A member of the Guardian Angel Organization patrolled the streets of Kitakyushu in March. Photo: Japan Times.
Guardian Angel members patrol the streets of Kitakyushu in March. Photo: Japan Times.
Five years ago, Kitakyushu was still referred to as the “city that never stops conflict” as it has struggled for decades with the shootings and violence of organized crime gangs (yakuza). Since Japan stepped up its repression of organized crime, the number of crimes recorded in 2018 decreased to 6,504, the lowest post-war and 84% lower than in 2002 when reaching the highest record.
Newspaper correspondent Nishinippon Shimbun explored the city at 23:00 a weekend in March, in the central area near Kokura Station, where restaurants and bars are often crowded with drunks and tourists. physical.
“Right now, our job is to reconcile some of the drunken fights that have just happened to a limited extent,” said Naoya Ikeda, 42, director of the Kitakyushu branch of the Guardian Angel nonprofit. people who regularly patrol the area since 2006, said.
Organization established in the US, expanding to more than 130 cities and 13 countries, with the goal of preventing street crime. Like other member groups in the world, members in Japan also wear red berets and red coats with the Guardian Angel logo printed on them. The group in Kitakyushu has 10 people, divided into groups of 2-3 people, taking turns patrolling the area from 23:00 the day before to 5:00 pm the next day.
Ikeda recalls a time when business owners who refused to serve the yakuza were often subject to retaliation, smashing restaurants and bars. “Yakuza members often roam the streets,” said Ikeda.
Every time there was a disturbance, they used to call him. Unlike the police, Ikeda and the Guardian Angels members have no legal authority against crime. They only intervene in drunken fights or talk to suspicious people to prevent illegal conduct.
“How was your business today?” Ikeda asked a bar owner and explained. “We’ve known everyone here for a long time.”
Over midnight, the patrol stopped to ask two young women sitting on a bench near Kokura Station in the cold, answering girls waiting for you.
“It would be safer if they were sitting in a convenience store or in a brighter place,” one person advised.
They often pay attention to girls who make friends with men through social networks. Many cases are victims of sex crimes. In the past, Guardian Angels used to intervene when they saw an unknown man talking to a woman on the street, but now, situations like that are more difficult to detect because they are often arranged online. society.
“Few people get acquainted with the girls on the street now, so it’s difficult to spot,” explained one patrol.
Ikeda explained that people who are likely to become victims of sex crimes often walk alone, seem to be in a hurry, looking at their phones while looking around, sometimes looking around. It could be a girl waiting to meet the man she met through social media.
The night patrol ended without any fights or disturbances. Ikeda prides itself on having fewer jobs because the city is safer.