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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Japan internet sex crimes rocket
Boy in internet chatroom (picture posed)
Internet dating sites have become increasingly popular
Crimes linked to internet dating services in Japan have more than doubled in the first six months of this year, the National Police Agency has said.

Almost 800 crimes in which victims were contacted through online dating sites have been reported since January, more than 70% of which involved sex with teenage girls.

Internet-enabled mobile phones were reportedly used to access the dating sites in almost all cases.

Web-based dating sites - the online equivalent of lonely hearts columns - have become increasingly popular in Japan, especially among the more than 55 million users of internet-equipped mobile phones.

Japan has more than 550 internet-based dating services and some 80% of the people who accessed them use mobile telephones, figures from the end of February show.

Lack of regulation

In the first six months of this year, 793 web-related crimes were reported, compared with 888 for the whole of 2001.

Child porn web site
Internet porn is another area of concern in many countries
During the same time period, police also recorded one murder case and 23 rapes in connection with internet dating services.

Child prostitution accounted for some 400 cases, while 213 others violated child protection laws.

But the number of internet-linked crimes could actually be much higher, and police admit there are difficulties in tracing some crimes due to the lack of regulation.

"Right now, it is difficult for us to crack down on illegal internet dating crimes as there is no specific law on such services," a police spokesman said.

Jiji press news agency said the police were considering the possibility of introducing new legislation.

Japan passed laws in 1999 making it a crime to pay for sex with minors under 18, or to sell or distribute child pornography, but teen prostitution remains widespread.

In a well-publicised case last year, a high court judge received a suspended sentence for paying schoolgirls for sex after contacting them over the internet.

See also:

17 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
12 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
16 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 01 | Americas
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