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    The Lucie Blackman case is well-known in Japan and England; US readers may not be familiar with it. Blackman was a British woman who quit her job as a BA flight attendant to take an under-the-table job at a hostess bar here in Tokyo. Several months later she was murdered, or killed accidentally in the course of a Mickey Finn, by a customer of the bar where she worked. This article from around a year later lays on the apocalyptic atmosphere a bit thick–as if Japan were a month away from sinking into Third World conditions–but it’s a pretty comprehensive discussion of the development of the case. Blackman’s family had to push hard and publicly to get police to investigate when she went missing.

    The Asahi reports that Blackman’s father helped launch a safety-minded service two years ago:

    The idea bore fruit in July 2004 with the launch of Safety Text, through which users send details of their plans for a day to registered recipients back home.

    Messages are stored for up to 24 hours, allowing users to cancel the text once they arrive at their destination. If they do not make contact, the alarm is raised.

    Facial photographs and contact details that are stored in the system would be then transmitted to the police to ensure a prompt investigation.

    “If Lucie had such a service, she might have wished to disclose that she was going off with this Japanese businessman (just in case),” Blackman said. “Then she might have been found in several hours, not seven months.”

    As part of the campaign to raise awareness of personal safety, the trust has distributed “personal safety information packs” for travelers to more than 650 educational establishments across Britain. It also warns women to make sure their drinks aren’t spiked with date-rape drugs.

    That poor family. You can see how they’d look for solace in trying to prevent what happened to their daughter and sister from happening to anyone else. But I’m not sure a system such as Safety Text is likely to help much. There’s an inherent risk in going back to the apartment of a lascivious-minded stranger, and no messaging system can exercise judgment on someone’s behalf. Blackman, after all, called her roommate several times after meeting up with Joji Obara on the day he killed her. (I guess I should say “allegedly,” but there appears to be next to no doubt.) She probably wasn’t out of contact until very shortly before being drugged. And given that she hadn’t been in Japan long, she might not have been entirely aware of which municipality she was in.

    Besides, whatever information is given to police, they need to feel a reasonable need to act on it before they’re going to go searching for someone. Blackman told her roommate she’d be back in about a half-hour and then didn’t show up. If it were my friend, I’d be worried, but I doubt I’d be all that worried until the next morning. People in their early twenties do get sidetracked and end up staying out all night. The first serious cause for alarm was the phone call the next day saying Blackman had joined a cult, but it’s pretty certain she was dead by then. The Safety Text system might have accelerated the recovery of her body, which is worthwhile in itself, but it seems unlikely to have prevented her death. (Given the wording Blackman’s father used in that quotation, he may be aware of that himself.)

    2 Responses to “Safety”

    1. John says:

      No electronic system is a substitute for common sense. Damn, stuff like this scares me. Not least because I did some pretty stupid things as a young adult (eg. meeting Mafiosi in alleys for black market hard currency deals in the USSR).

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, young adulthood is the time to do stupid things (within reason). You feel indestructible, and the only way to avoid danger from other people entirely is to stay home. If you’ve been brought up to assess risks well, it doesn’t mean you won’t take them, but it does mean that you’ll usually be on the lookout for such warning signs as there are.

      Anyway, you have more than a decade left to school your little ones in common sense and protecting themselves. : )

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