Tokyo train gropers evade capture, disrupt services with risky railway line escape routes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 May, 2017, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 May, 2017, 10:11pm

Police in Tokyo have condemned a new tactic adopted by men accused of groping women on trains during the city’s notoriously busy rush-hour, warning that jumping on the tracks to evade authorities means they are risking serious injury or death.

“It is extremely dangerous to go onto the tracks,” an official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department told the South China Morning Post. He said it also disrupts services as operators are forced to suspend operations.

Police are becoming increasingly frustrated by the evasive measures used by suspects as they are not allowed to chase because the dangers posed by trains and railway infrastructure.

The latest person to escape by leaping onto the tracks was accused of molesting a female secondary school student on board a train when it stopped at Tokyo’s Shimbashi Station on May 12.

Before station staff could apprehend him, the man – wearing a business suit – jumped onto the line and quickly disappeared.

It was at least the eighth incident since mid-March of a man accused of fondling a female passenger fleeing along the railway tracks.

At Ikebukuro Station on March 14, a man managed to throw off his pursuers by running across a number of overground lines, causing significant delays to an estimated 32,000 commuters – the first time a groping suspect had cause such a major disruption to railway services.

Commenting on the case at the time, a senior police officer told the Asahi newspaper, “The men probably feel that they will not be pursued if they use the tracks.”

The incident made headlines because of the unorthodox method of escape and apparently encouraged copycats, with other suspected gropers evading capture using the same tactic.

In each of the eight cases to date, all of the men managed to escape, although authorities caught a break in one incident that led to an arrest.

In late April, a man escaped on the tracks along the Saikyo Line after being identified by a woman as the man who had indecently touched her. In a struggle with the woman and another female commuter, the man’s jacket came off.

Despite him escaping, police found identity documents in the coat pocket and subsequently arrested Satoru Fukushima, a 41-year-old unemployed man from Saitama Prefecture. Fukushima denied deliberately touching the woman and claims his hand accidentally came into contact with her body.