Tohoku University Students Among Miyagi Police's Cybercrime Prevention Volunteers

A ceremony was held at Miyagi Prefectural Police Headquarters on May 31 to commission a new batch of Cybercrime Prevention Volunteers.

This year's group comprises seven organizations and 156 individuals, including 17 Tohoku University students - three public policy graduate students and 14 undergraduates - all tasked with reporting harmful activities or information that they see on the internet.

According to Miyagi Police, volunteers in the prefecture made almost 6,000 reports in the past year, of which more than 5,000 cases led to the deletion of information, and some cases resulted in arrests.

"Cyberspace has become an integral part of all social activities and is indispensable to our daily lives. However, it is also being misused for criminal activities such as child prostitution, and recruiting perpetrators for special fraud and robbery under the guise of 'dark' part-time jobs," said Miyagi Prefectural Police's Director-general of Cyber Security Yuji Watanabe in his speech at the ceremony. "Last year, the number of fraudulent money transfers targeting internet banking reached an all-time high nationwide, highlighting the urgent need for crime prevention measures in cyberspace."

He added that while Miyagi Police have been implementing public awareness campaigns and rigorously investigating cyber-related incidents, "collaboration between the police and the citizens of the prefecture is crucial for effective results."

Masato Okuyama, a fourth-year student at Tohoku University's Faculty of Law, has been a volunteer for the past three years. He said that despite anticipating a busy senior year ahead, he remains committed to his responsibilities as a Cybercrime Prevention Volunteer.

"I think volunteering is about doing what you can when you can, so I do it with the mindset of finding time and doing it when I want to," he said. "Cyber security is so important and I believe that this programme has a lot of benefits. If I have the opportunity to continue being a volunteer even after graduation, I would probably do it."

"This year in class we are studying scams, swindles and special fraud, and I learnt that many young people are victims through social media," said Suzuki Manami, a first-year Masters student at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Public Policy. "When I heard from my professor about this police initiative to have students and volunteers help reduce cybercrime, I wanted to do it."

Suzuki, who along with Okuyama were Tohoku University's student representatives at the ceremony, added that it is especially important for young people to be familiar with online dangers. "The police are already short-staffed in their normal duties, and the internet is such a large space. If we all do what we can to be vigilant, we can help prevent or reduce the damage from online crime on our society."

"University students, as a demographic, use the internet a lot, which exposes them to a lot of information. That is both good and bad because it also means that they can be vulnerable to scams and people with bad intentions," said Naoko Udagawa, a professor of safety and security at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Law and Public Policy, seconded from the National Police Agency of Japan.

"By participating in this programme, our students will develop better awareness and a sense of self-protection. And they can also help to make the internet environment safer for their peers."

Tohoku University has been part of the "Cybercrime Prevention Volunteers" programme since 2022, with 58 students having participated so far.


Naoko Udagawa
Tohoku University Graduate School of Law and Public Policy

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