TOKYO • The Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo has developed a free smartphone app that can help scare off would-be molesters as well as activate a security alarm.
Dubbed the Digi Police, the app has been downloaded more than 220,000 times so far.
A smartphone voice would shout "stop!" when a Digi Police user activates one of the app's functions to stymie molesters.
A message that reads "There's a molester. Please help" would also be displayed on the screen.
This function was designed for those who may be too scared to call out for help but could show the message to the people around them.
In the security alarm function, users tap an image of a bell shown on the screen, and an electronic alarm blasts in full volume.
Users can also preset the e-mail addresses of their families or guardians to inform them of physical danger and their current location.
The Metropolitan Police Department began distributing Digi Police in March 2016, and as of March 12 this year, it had been downloaded about 220,000 times, an unusually high number for apps developed by public agencies.
Digi Police was initially intended to attract attention to frauds or suspicious individuals.
An expert panel comprising professors and others pointed out in September 2017 that it was ideal to further spread and improve the app as a measure to assure the safety of children and women.
In response, the Metropolitan Police Department completely rebuilt the app, tailoring it for the young "smartphone native" generation.
The app's appearance has been redesigned: The colour of its top page changed from dark blue to white, and updated crime reports can pop up for areas that users registered.
The app has a link to a "Safety of children and women" site that maps out the closest police station or convenience stores, as well as directions to nearby police boxes to use as a shelter.
While the functions to locate police boxes and be notified of crimes are limited to only within Tokyo, the security alarm, function to repel molesters and security measures information are available to any users.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK