Kanagawa Police Took Months to Respond to Residents’ Reports About Most Wanted Fugitive?

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    Last night, police in Kanagawa prefecture announced that they had arrested Naoko Kikuchi, senior Aum Shinrikyo cult member who had been on the run since her cult’s 1995 terror attack on the Tokyo subway system. It seemed like a pretty great achievement for police.

    However, as reporters look into the case, it is beginning to look like the police just got lucky. Yesterday’s arrest took place because police were acting on a tip from residents who had spotted someone who looked like Kikuchi. NHK found and interviewed a man who claimed to have called the police nearly 6 months ago. He and his mother had seen Kikuchi in their neighborhood several times since October of 2011 and had called the police to report it in December. The man says that police did not take his report seriously (“本気にしてもらえなかった”).

    Yesterday’s arrest was apparently in response to a more recent tip.

    Police have said they will investigate the man’s claim that his tip was ignored. Police sources that that they received over 400 tips regarding Aum fugitives since November 2010. Reward money of up to 10 million yen per fugitive has proven to be a pretty good incentive, and it is possible that the man who spoke to NHK could be making a false claim with the intention of getting some of that money.

    Had police had been given a tip about the whereabouts of one of Japan’s most wanted criminals, but failed to act on the information? If Kikuchi had decided to move in the months between December 2011 and June 2012, it is possible that she could have remained a free woman for many years to come.

    If the report is true, it would not be the first time that Japanese police have acted with embarrassing ineptitude when offered a chance to arrest a major criminal. When Makoto Hirata, another senior member of Aum Shinrikyo, visited a police station in December to confess his identity and submit himself to arrest, a police officer turned him away, thinking that it was all a joke. Hirata was forced to walk to another police station, where he finally found somebody willing to capture him.

    One would expect that police would be very serious about apprehending criminals pictured on wanted posters at almost every train station and police box in the country.

    [via Itai News]

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