Japanese plan tracking system for children

Friday, October 3, 2003

TOKYO -- Stunned by the kidnapping of a teenage girl, a rural Japanese city plans to use a satellite-linked tracking system to help parents find their children.

The northern city of Murakami has asked two security companies to provide the service for the families of 2,700 elementary and junior high school students, said Kenkichi Kimura, an official on the city's Board of Education.

The abduction of a 15-year-old girl last month prompted the program. A 26-year-old man took the teenager to his home on a nearby island, where she was rescued 11 days later.

With the new service, students will carry devices that will send out signals allowing their parents to pinpoint where they are through a Web site on the Internet, Kimura said Thursday.

It will use a combination of technologies provided by mobile phone companies and the Global Positioning System, a U.S. satellite navigation service used by everyone from hikers to ship captains.

The device also will be equipped with a button that can be pushed to call for help.

"If you are in a big city, people will come to help if you call for help," Kimura said. "But here, students walk to school in the mountains and rice fields. We need the latest device."

The city will pay a small part of the fee for the device. An anti-crime buzzer not linked to a security service will also be offered.

Kimura said he believed Murakami would be the first community in Japan to offer a citywide anti-crime service for children. If approved by the city assembly, the service could be in place by year's end.

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