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National child abuse case info database set to launch: NPA

TOKYO -- The National Police Agency (NPA) is set to launch a nationwide database of suspected child abuse cases shared across prefectural police headquarters, aiming to prevent these incidents even when families move to other prefectures.

The database will open in the 2019 fiscal year. The database will first include data concerning suspected child abuse cases handled in the last several years by prefectural police, and will be updated with new cases from there.

Officers at every prefectural police headquarters will be able to search the exact case by the names of the parents and children in the database in order to grasp whether police stations in other prefectures have already handled a case concerning the family or how it has been dealt with previously.

The NPA has been preparing the database since fiscal 2017. Some prefectural police already have set up systems to share child abuse cases that multiple police stations in the same prefecture handled, but not across prefectures.

According to the NPA, it is not easy for police officers to find out whether parents or others abuse children when they visit a home following a report from neighbors. If police officers can access data on previous cases concerning a particular family in the database, they would be able to take more specific action, such as sharing the information with a child welfare consultation center to follow up with the family.

The NPA believes that the new system could prevent serious cases such as the death of a 5-year-old girl in Tokyo's Meguro Ward of alleged parental neglect this March. The case highlighted one of the main factors in her death was the lack of information sharing between consultation centers and follow up before and after the girl and her family moved from Kagawa Prefecture in southern Japan to Tokyo.

In 2017, police reported to child welfare consultation centers that 65,431 children aged 18 or younger allegedly suffered from abuse -- up 20 percent from the previous year. The number of child abuse cases where police charged the parents or other guardians was 1,138, some 57 cases more than in 2016. The two figures are the largest numbers ever recorded in Japan.

(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, City News Department)

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