Officers seen running after a police vehicle with a passenger waving from the front seat.

Like many holidays imported from overseas, Halloween looks a little different here in Japan. Door-to-door trick-or-treating, for example, is yet to catch on, although treats do appear — in the form of Ghost Whoppers, zombie pizzas and candies given out to children by yakuza gang members — and tricks have been largely limited to tricked-out cars and taxis appearing on the roads during Halloween.

Recently, however, there’s been a marked shift towards Halloween becoming a night to get drunk, run riot, and do all the things you’d never dream of doing on any other night of the year.

So when people in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, saw a police car drive by on the night of Halloween with a civilian waving at everyone from the open front passenger window, they immediately feared someone had just run off with a police officer’s vehicle.

▼ Take a look at the video below

Bystanders and people who viewed the video were quick to jump to the conclusion that the car was stolen, given that nobody but a uniformed policeman would be sitting in the front passenger seat.

“Someone stole a police car at Tanukikoji shopping street!”
“Omg I can’t believe someone stole a police car in Sapporo!”
“This is crazy – a stolen police vehicle!”
“Did they catch the person who stole the vehicle?”
“Did I just watch a video of a getaway in a police car?”

However, eagle-eyed viewers pointed out a few details that proved things weren’t really what they seemed.

▼ This self-described “car nerd” identified the vehicle as a S15 Crown Hardtop, which he says would be odd for a police vehicle.

A number of commenters agreed, saying the model appeared to be out-of-date compared to the police cars seen around Sapporo today. Side-by-side photos also revealed that real police vehicles in the area have the Japanese word for Hokkaido “北海道” ending before the front door handle, with the word for police, “警察” on the rear door. On the vehicle in the clip, however, “北海道” is broken up between the front door and the rear door, with only two kanji on the front, and three on the rear.

▼ Fake vehicle (left), real vehicle (right)

As for the police officers by the side of the road, who could be seen chasing the vehicle as it drove by, they appear to be fake as well, with viewers pointing out that the belt worn by the “officer” is an old model and the holster doesn’t have a weapon in it.

If there really was a police carjacking in Sapporo it would certainly make the national news, but as no news reports surfaced, it became clear that this police drive-by had been a Halloween prank. One Twitter user tracked down the culprit to a YouTube channel with roughly 10,000 subscribers, suggesting that the stunt was all part of a YouTube video created by a group of young men.

Reactions online quickly turned from shock and confusion to criticism and dismay.

“Isn’t this taking a Halloween prank too far?”
“Don’t they know it’s illegal to impersonate a police officer?”
“What a bunch of idiots.”
“So sick of people using Halloween as an excuse to do stupid things.”
“Even if it’s fake, they’re bound to be breaking some law, surely?”

According to Japan’s Road Transport Vehicle Act, it’s not illegal to drive a car with black-and-white markings similar to those seen on Japanese police vehicles. However, it is illegal to use markings with the word “police” or the name of a prefecture, and lighting devices like the ones used on emergency vehicles must not be equipped or used on regular cars.

So in addition to causing alarm on the street and online, these YouTubers appear to have violated road transport laws with their Halloween prank. And given that the Japanese police have a track record of being able to track people down through CCTV, this YouTube team might be getting a visit from the real authorities shortly.

Sources: Matomedane, Jin, Hachima Kikou
Top image: YouTube/paparazzi24

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