TOKYO, Sept 15, 2009 (AFP) - Tokyo police this week launched a crackdown on gropers who have long molested women on the city's busy subway network during rush hour, an official said Tuesday.
Tokyo Metropolitan Police has deployed teams of uniformed officers to platforms and plain-clothes officials aboard trains to catch men who fondle women or try to sneak revealing photographs of them.
More than 100 high school girls, wearing school uniforms with short skirts, have joined the week-long campaign, carrying a banner that reads "Groping is contemptible. We don't forgive it!"
"We want to get on trains safely," they shouted in unison as passengers walked by on Monday at Ikebukuro, one of the busiest stations in the Japanese capital.
Police decided to launch the intensive campaign to prevent the crime and increase social awareness about groping, which has spawned Internet forums among molesters.
"Groping on trains is a serious crime... but it is becoming more evil," a Tokyo police spokesman told AFP, noting that gropers have teamed up on some lines and surrounded target woman to block the views of other passengers.
Tokyo police recorded 708 groping cases in the six months to June, down by 91 cases from the same period last year, although the number of complaints has been on the rise, according to official data.
In 2001, Tokyo began running women-only carriages during rush hours.
Offenders face up to six months in jail or fines of up to 500,000 yen (5,500 dollars) while those who use violence or threats can be jailed for up to 10 years.