Countermeasure promises to bring attention to the specific part of the train where the groping is taking place.

There are a couple of major reasons Japan’s chikan (train groper) problem is so persistent. One is the inherently mobile nature of the crime. It’s pretty difficult to get help from the authorities when the chikan can simply hop off the train at the next station, dash to another one going in a different direction, and disappear into Japan’s vast rail network while you’re still looking for a security guard.

Another problem is that chikan take advantage of the crowded conditions at rush hour to obscure their crime. On packed commuter trains, a certain amount of physical contact is inevitable, with bodies pressed against each other as everyone heads to work or school, and that can sometimes make it difficult for even the victim to identify the source of the offending hand, especially if it’s coming from an angle outside of their line of sight. Not being able to single out the offender can create just enough hesitation in verbally calling out for help to let the chikan satisfy his urge and slip away at the next stop, especially since the train being so crowded often prevents would-be good Samaritans from noticing what the chikan is doing until it’s too late to step in.

East Japan Railway Company, also known as JR East, has an idea that it thinks can help. This month, the rail operator will begin testing a new system that allows victims to report chikan with a tap of their smartphone.

Pressing a button on JR East’s newly developed anti-chikan app sends a message to the train’s conductor, and also allows them to see where specifically in the train the alert was sent from. The conductor will then make an announcement over the train’s P.A. system informing all passengers of the situation, such as “We have received report of a chikan in car number three.”

JR East hopes that this will startle the chikan into getting his hands off the victim, and also will attract attention from other passengers. While the company isn’t going so far as to ask passengers to team up and physically restrain and/or pummel the chikan, the extra sets of eyes should also act as a deterrent and monitor the offender until the train arrives at the next station, whereupon a security team, alerted by the conductor when the victim’s alert came in, will be waiting on the platform to apprehend the groper.

Testing of the new system is scheduled to begin in late February on trains traveling on the Saikyo Line, which connects the west side of downtown Tokyo with the residential communities north of the capital in neighboring Saitama Prefecture, making it one of the busiest commuter lines in the country. The initial test will involve JR employees making alerts at pre-arraigned times during weekday mornings, in order to test the system’s reliability. The conductor will announce the alerts, and although the announcement will inform passengers that these are currently just tests, this should help let potential chikan know that the system is moving towards fully operational status.

Following the first round of tests, JR East pans to fine-tune the system before a second round of testing in June, followed by the eventual release of the finished app to the public.

Source: JR East Japan via Livedoor News/Norimono News via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso 
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