TOKYO – The terror attack in central London on Saturday is having a significant impact on police authorities in Japan.
The busy area where the attack was carried out is known as a “soft target” – places that are lightly guarded compared to government-related facilities.
“(The attackers) appeared to be aiming to terrify society by carrying out a terrorist attack in a place that is well-known and visited by a large number of people,” said Isao Itabashi, chief of the research center at the Council for Public Policy and an expert on antiterrorism measures.
In July last year, a truck was driven into crowds of people in the southern French city of Nice. Terrorist attacks in recent years have attracted widespread attention, including the incident in Nice and Saturday’s attack in London, as the perpetrators have used vehicles and knives, which are easily accessible to anyone.
Experts have raised concerns – according to Naofumi Miyasaka, a professor of crisis management at the National Defense Academy, “It’s become more and more difficult to gather information concerning possible terror attacks to prevent them from occurring.”
In response to the Nice incident, the National Police Agency instructed all prefectural police headquarters in the country to strengthen the protection of soft targets. One of the key elements of those instructions was how to prevent terror attacks that use vehicles.
At the Tokyo Marathon in February, the Metropolitan Police Department established a “protective wall” by parking about 100 police vehicles at street intersections.
At other events that attract a large number of people on the streets, such as fireworks displays and Halloween, police have implemented measures to prevent terrorist attacks that use vehicles to crash into target sites. But in London, the suspects targeted the daily activities of ordinary citizens, and it is difficult to establish a system to provide protection against similar attacks.
“It’s difficult to protect central parts of a town all the time at the same level as large events,” a senior police official said. “We have no choice but to rely on support from ordinary citizens, such as having them promptly inform us when they see suspicious individuals or objects.”
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