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JR East to test groping alert app on busy Tokyo area commuter trains

A smartphone showing the anti-groping app is seen in this photo taken on Feb. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Munehisa Ishida)

TOKYO -- East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) is set to test a smartphone application designed to notify train conductors of groping on a line in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the train operator announced on Feb. 4.

The app, which will be tested on JR Saikyo Line trains from late February, allows users who are being groped on the train to notify the conductor by tapping the "report" button on their smartphone screens. The information, including the number of the car where the user is riding and their approximate location, will be displayed on the conductor's tablet.

The trial will be carried out from 7 to 10 a.m. on weekdays in February through March. JR East employees will operate the app from the train. The railway operator hopes to prevent groping by making on-train announcements when a conductor is notified of a groping case and use the app to help facilitate cooperation between train conductors and the station staff as well as with police. The app is also expected to ease fear and humiliation for the victims when they report a groping incident.

Starting in June, the company will have some 100 passengers download the app and test it on the assumption that a person was groped on the train. The conductor will announce, "There has been a report of groping," and contact the staff of the nearest station.

The app is also equipped with a sound function and a notification feature for other passengers in the area who have installed the same app. The train operator says the staff will check security camera footage of train cars if necessary.

(Japanese original by Munehisa Ishida, Business News Department)

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