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Tokyo police team up with private sector to boost security for 2020 Games

A police officer on a Segway is seen patrolling Tokyo International Airport, also known as Haneda Airport, in Tokyo's Ota Ward, in this file photo taken on Aug. 31, 2015. (Mainichi)

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is poised to beef up security and implement wide-ranging counterterrorism measures along Tokyo's coastal areas where many of the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic events are set to be held.

In addition to the creation of a specialized unit that will institute counterterrorism measures from the sea, the MPD will gain cooperation from railway companies whose trains run along the coast, to obtain security camera footage in times of emergency. With less than three years until the games are to begin, security preparations are being ramped up very quickly.

A police officer is seen on a jet ski providing security for the Group of Seven Ise-Shima Summit in May 2016. The Metropolitan Police Department will create a new maritime security unit using such equipment to patrol Tokyo Bay. (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Police Department)

Of the 39 locations that have been decided as sites for Olympic and Paralympic events, 14 -- or some 40 percent -- are concentrated along the coast, according to the MPD. The planned site for the Olympic Village, which will house athletes from all over the world, is in the Harumi district of Chuo Ward, which also faces Tokyo Bay. Furthermore, Haneda Airport in Tokyo's Ota Ward, which many foreign dignitaries and tourists are expected to use, is located in the bay. All of these factors have prompted the MPD to bolster security in Tokyo's coastal areas.

A new maritime security unit is set to be launched by 2019 by reorganizing the anti-firearms squad of the 6th Metropolitan Riot Police Unit based in Shinagawa Ward, close to Haneda Airport, into a unit comprising several dozen officers, who will fight terrorism from the water. Its members will patrol Haneda Airport and the surrounding event sites using jet skis, on the lookout for mysterious objects and activity.

An around-the-clock metropolitan police counterterrorism unit that has been set up on the grounds of Haneda Airport will be reinforced with backup from a resident canine unit capable of sniffing out explosives to allow for early detection and action. The MPD is also deliberating whether to increase the membership of its Special Assault Team (SAT), trained to handle terrorism and hijackings, to its highest level since its founding in 1996.

Additionally, the MPD is stepping up its collaborative efforts with the private sector. The MPD already has a protocol in place in which subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. provides the MPD with security camera footage in cases of terrorism and disasters, but beginning with the current fiscal year, three more companies -- Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Corp., which operates Yurikamome; Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit, which runs the Rinkai Line; and Toei Subway -- have partnered up with the MPD, with hopes of providing real-time information to make quick responses possible.

"The Tokyo Bay area is about to see the most changes in Tokyo due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games," a representative for the MPD's Security Bureau says. "We hope to establish a security arrangement that can deal with terrorism from the water in line with the changes that will take place in the area."

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