Crime fighters...

Good morning everyone,

Have you been enjoying the snowy, freezing cold beginning of 2015? I swear we've already seen more snow already this winter  than all of last year! The good news is that it's supposed to warm up a lot today-it'll get up to 10C or so and highs should remain above 10C till the middle of next week. We may see some rain on Tuesday, but otherwise, it isn't looking too bad...

You know I always whinge about taxi drivers-and let's be clear, I don't have anything personal against taxi drivers, I just think there are too many taxis on the roads. However, they do serve one benefit that I never would have thought of-they help prevent convenience stores from being robbed!

When first coming to Japan, one of the odd things I noticed was that in every convenience store you’d be likely to see a group of people at the magazine rack reading entire manga volumes and issues of Vogue. Where I come from such behavior would cause the clerk to issue a reminder that I was not, in fact, inside a library.

I later learned that such free reading was allowed because, in a roundabout way, these people are helping to guard the store by keeping it from emptying out.

However, these readers are usually students and office workers who have to go home at some point, leaving the stores without any loiterers to protect them. It’s during this dangerous window of 10:00pm to 7:00am that most convenience store robberies occur.

This is where the humble cab driver comes in.

In Kyoto about half of the convenience stores signed on for the Midnight Defender Strategy. These 500 or so shops hung posters with slogans such as “vigilance strengthening” written on them in their windows. These signs are indicators to taxi drivers that they are allowed to park there as long as they like during breaks. The stores lose a few parking spaces in the process but gain some extra eyes which may be enough to deter a would-be bandit from making their move.

Since the program started in September 2013 the number of armed robberies among participating stores dropped to four compared to 18 in the previous year. On the other hand, the shops which were not part of the Midnight Defender Strategy saw an increase in robberies, up from seven to nine incidents compared to the year before. Overall the total number of robberies was nearly halved in the prefecture.

Police are clearly happy with the results and the shops are also pleased with not have knives waved in their faces, with one manager commenting: “Having the drivers around for any amount of time leads to a sense of security. Our midnight staff especially appreciate them.” Taxi drivers are also pleased with the arrangement. “It really helps to have a guaranteed spot to park for breaks,” said one, “and I’m happy to help them out too.”

It appears to be a win-win-win situation for all involved, and if the number of robberies continues to be low we can expect to see the Midnight Defender Strategy pop up in other prefectures across Japan and then I may have to backpedal a bit on my complaining about taxi drivers...ha ha!

Have a great day!

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