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Rise in alleged Tokyo train gropers escaping along tracks causing serious problems

Since March, there has been an increase in the number of men suspected of groping people inside Tokyo trains before escaping the scene by running along the tracks.

    The act of groping a stranger in a train is of course illegal, but the added aspect of running on the tracks is dangerous and disruptive, and it often forces trains to temporarily suspend operations -- which in turn causes delays to large numbers of passengers. In response to such actions, the message from the train companies is clear: "Whatever you do, do not go on the tracks." Meanwhile, a legal expert says, "Running away like this is the last thing you should do."

    "It wasn't me!" These were the last words uttered by a man in a dark blue jacket at around 7:50 a.m. on April 13 at JR Ryogoku Station on the Sobu Line, in Tokyo's Sumida Ward, before he jumped down onto the tracks and ran away. The man in this particular case instantly fled after stepping onto the platform with two other women, having just been accused of molestation. The man ran for about 50 meters before climbing over a metallic wire fence, and then disappearing out of sight.

    At this particular time of day, namely rush hour, trains enter JR Ryogoku Station at intervals of about 1 to 2 minutes. However, following this alleged "grope-and-run" incident, trains were temporarily stopped as a safety precaution. As a result, passengers were delayed up to around 20 minutes. A 55-year-old company employee who was on the platform at the time of the incident, stated, "Police officers went to look for the man on the train tracks. I was late for work because the train had stopped. The incident was nothing but a nuisance."

    Between March and April this year, there have been five other alleged "grope-and-run" cases at JR stations in Tokyo such as Ikebukuro, Akabane and Shinjuku. Typically, these incidents tend to happen at times when the trains are crowded, which often prompts frustrated passengers to post tweets such as, "It's happened again," or "The train isn't moving" on Twitter. The Metropolitan Police Department is currently searching for the suspects on charges of violating the Tokyo Anti-Nuisance Ordinance, but so far the culprits have not been identified.

    In the past, there have also been cases where suspected train gropers have ended up dying. In 2001 for example, a man who had been berated for allegedly groping someone at JR Ochanomizu Station in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward ran away down the train tracks but died after falling into the nearby Kanda River. In 2003, a man who had been accused of groping a passenger jumped onto the tracks, was hit by an incoming train and died.

    The act of jumping onto the train tracks contravenes the Railway Operation Act. In addition, railway companies can demand large amounts of money for damages from those who delay trains in such disruptive ways.

    A spokesperson for East Japan Railway Co. says, "Going onto the train tracks is extremely dangerous, particularly in Tokyo, as there are many trains." If one ever witnesses a person on the tracks, the spokesperson suggests "pressing the emergency button, because this will stop the trains."

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