Security at child care centers in Japan under spotlight after knife attack

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A break-in at a child care center in Miyagi Prefecture by a knife-wielding man has underlined the difficulty of crisis management at such facilities.
A 31-year-old man trespassed at a certified center for early childhood education and care in the city of Tome on the morning of Nov. 9. He was restrained by four staff members and handed over to the police, with no one injured.

The incident prompted the Miyagi prefectural government to instruct day care centers and other child care facilities in the prefecture to review their crime prevention manuals.
The intruder told investigators that he entered the child care center with the intention to kill children, and that he wanted to be given the death penalty for having murdered multiple people, according to investigative sources.
“We’re glad it did not turn into a worse incident,” a senior official at the Miyagi prefectural police said.
“We faced (the suspect) thinking that if we ran away, he would harm the children,” a male staff member at the center who restrained the intruder said Thursday.
The staff member found the suspect roaming around the center and alerted other members by eye contact so as to not provoke him. They evacuated the 71 children in the facility garden indoors, telling them that they should head inside because it was about to rain.
The suspect, who climbed over a fence to enter the center, tried to stab a member of staff. He was held down by workers using their bare hands.
Since a deadly knife attack at an elementary school in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in June 2001, the welfare ministry has been instructing child care facilities across the nation to draw up crisis management manuals.
The Tome center opened in April this year and had conducted tabletop exercises twice. Center chief Ritsuko Ueno, 59, said that she had not expected the facility would have to capture a suspect.
The center manual calls for evacuating and reporting to the police in principle, so the facility did not have any crime prevention items such as tools to restrain suspects.
Sasumata (forks used to as a weapon or tool to apprehend people) and other tools could be used by intruders as weapons, and there is also an issue of whether such tools can be used effectively,” since many child care staff members are women, an official from the Tome city office said.
Following the incident, the child care center has started to consider the purchase of pepper spray.
“Keeping crime prevention items on hand, working with the police to engage in self-defense training and notifying such activities to the local area would act as a deterrent,” said Tetsuya Sato, professor at Miyagi University of Education.
Sato also stressed the need for checking manuals and introducing administrative audits for such measures.
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