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Editorial: Kanagawa severed heads case highlights modern society's dark side

The discovery of the remains of nine people at an apartment in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, has highlighted the dark side of modern Japanese society, and it is bloodcurdling.

The 27-year-old man who lived at the apartment has been arrested on suspicion of corpse abandonment in connection with the incident. The suspect has told investigators that he got acquainted with his victims through Twitter, lured them to his apartment and murdered them.

The man has admitted that he killed all nine people since moving into the apartment in late August this year. His behavior after murdering each victim is also bizarre. He is alleged to have dismembered them, put their heads in coolers and other boxes, and kept them in his room.

One cannot help but wonder where the man's cruelty comes from. He has reportedly told investigators that he committed the crimes for the purpose of sexually assaulting women and stealing their money, but is this the real motive? It is necessary to identify the victims and dig deeply into the suspect's psychology to get to the bottom of the crimes.

A police search for a 23-year-old woman from Hachioji, Tokyo, missing since Oct. 24 led to the discovery of the nine people's remains. The woman had tweeted that she was looking for someone who would die with her. The suspect apparently responded to her message and invited her to his apartment. In other words, a social networking service (SNS) served as the contact point between the suspect and his victims.

Suicide websites -- where people went to look for advice on killing themselves or to find people to die with -- were identified some time ago as hotbeds of criminal activity in addition to feeding suicidal tendencies, prompting police and internet service providers to strictly monitor harmful websites.

However, it is difficult to keep an eye on Twitter and the messaging application Line, which have private messaging functions. Social networking services are convenient information exchange tools. However, it must be kept in mind that criminals can easily take advantage of these networks' anonymity to approach their victims.

The suspect has acknowledged that teenagers were among the eight women he murdered.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of children who fell victim to crimes through social network services has been growing in recent years, hitting 1,736 in 2016. It is an urgent task to consider how to raise SNS risk awareness and properly manage the use of such services among children through schools and at home.

Society as a whole needs to consider how best to prevent crimes committed through social networks, rather than simply fixating on the gruesome nature of the Zama case.

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