SAITAMA -- The Saitama Prefectural Government is set to launch a special online network linking up child consultation centers with local police stations in order to share information on all suspected child abuse cases in the prefecture to better tackle the issue.
Starting fiscal 2019, the network will connect seven child consultation centers and their branches with 39 police stations in the prefecture, north of Tokyo. While efforts to share child abuse information between prefectural police headquarters and prefectural governments overseeing child counseling centers have been gradually growing across the country, such a real-time information-sharing system is unusual, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Under the child abuse prevention act, information on child abuse cases reported to police is passed on to child consultation centers. However, there are no laws providing for information supply from juvenile consultation centers to police, leaving the decision over whether to hand over such information up to each local government.
According to the Saitama Prefectural Government and the welfare ministry, schemes to share information on all abuse cases between prefectural police headquarters and local governments have been in place in Ibaraki and Kanagawa prefectures near Tokyo, Aichi Prefecture in the central part of the country and Osaka Prefecture to the west. In many cases, tips provided by local residents to child guidance centers are sent to police via email or fax. The Osaka Prefectural Government makes it a rule to provide such information to prefectural police headquarters once every month. In return, the prefectural police inform the prefectural government of any records of police deployment for abuse-related cases. In Kanagawa, the prefectural police department is granted access to relevant databases created by the prefectural government.
In Saitama, the prefectural government began to share information on all suspected abuse cases it compiled -- such as the names and addresses of abused children and the details of each case -- with the prefectural police department via a prefecture-run network in August last year. However, as the prefectural government updates such information only about once a month and the information can only be accessed at the prefectural police headquarters, there may be delays before police can get access to necessary information.
Under the planned new system, child consultation centers will be linked up with local police stations via special networks using terminals to be set up at each police station and center. Child counseling centers will provide information such as the names of abused children and their family situation, as well as the history of measures taken such as placing children under temporary protective custody or accommodating them into children's nursing homes. Police stations, on the other hand, will feed into the networks information such as how they responded to each case.
Lawyer Keiji Goto, representative director of Tokyo-based incorporated nonprofit organization Think Kids dedicated to child abuse prevention, hailed the Saitama government's move. "In many cases, information shared between child guidance centers and police gets updated about once a month, but it is best to directly connect those centers with police stations so they can reciprocally share information. Such a system should spread across the country."
An official with the welfare ministry's abuse prevention countermeasures promotion office commented, "I have never heard of a mechanism where child consultation centers and local police stations share information online on a real-time basis."
(Japanese original by Koichi Uchida, Saitama Bureau)