JIN-411 -- Fibers Finger Gropers

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's culture, economy and society
Issue No. 411 Friday April 20, 2007 TOKYO

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Fibers Finger Gropers

The other evening I squeezed into a train homeward-bound
from Tokyo. Pressed against the door like a butterfly
pinned to the leaf of a specimen book I could only
watch the nightscape scrolling past the window. Not until
I overheard a guy tell his girl, 'We're on the women-only
car' did I sense something strange. I looked around. Sure
enough he and I were the only men, my having followed him
like a lemming. My being the last on board, few riders
had noticed me, and none seemed to pay me any attention.

The women-only car offers women the chance to travel
without fear of molestation. But it can't accommodate all
female passengers, and by virtue of usually being relatively
less crowded, increases the passenger density in other cars.

Now forensic science may have a deterrent for would-be train

This year a researcher from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police
Department Forensics Laboratory took the stand at the Tokyo
Regional Court. A former college professor was on trial for
having allegedly groped a female high school student on a
train. The ex-prof pleaded not guilty. 'Fibers from the
(student's) skirt matched fibers on former professor's
fingers in color, shape, and thickness,' the researcher
testified. Sorry, professor.
[continued below...]

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[...Article continues]
Fiber identification, used only once in 1997, was employed
177 times in 2004, 192 times in 2005, and 326 times last
year. 'Acquittals in groping cases have received wide press
coverage, for which reason investigators are putting a
greater effort into gathering evidence,' says a forensic
lab spokesperson, in explaining the growing use of fiber
identification to the Asahi Shimbun, a major daily.

Fiber identification relies on a special tape to collect
fibers from the back and front of all ten fingers, and from
the palms and backs of the hands. These are compared with
fibers from the victim's outer and under garments. Fibers
are examined under a microscope for matches. In general,
fibers won't stick to fingers and hands that only brush
against a garment, although the degree of adhesion varies
with perspiration and fiber quality. Rather, fibers adhere
to fingers and hands that rub or grasp clothing for some

The microscope can analyze the material, shape, and color
of a fiber as small as 5 hundredths of a millimeter. In
color alone micro analysis can verify close to 250
classifications. 'Identification is extremely accurate,'
the spokesperson crows. Confronted with fiber
identification evidence, some alleged gropers have fessed
up. Failure to match fibers does not clear a suspect,
although it does induce investigators to be cautious.

Nobuyoshi Araki, a Chuo University professor and authority
on cases of men being falsely accused of groping, told the
Asahi, 'Because statements alone cannot be depended upon,
fiber identification and other forensic means should be
used as much as possible. Courts, too, must require
thorough investigations using forensic means.'

At the next station I changed cars. The experience had
been as unnerving as accidentally wandering into a
men-only bar.

Publicizing the high accuracy of fiber identification would
perhaps deter train molesters to where railroads no longer
felt obliged to establish women-only cars. I for one hope
-- Burritt Sabin

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