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Neighbor 2 Neighbor: an e-Crime prevention initiative: NCIS Far East safeguards deployed Naval personnel and their families based in Japan.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is the primary law enforcement and counterintelligence arm of the Department of the Navy. NCIS works closely with U.S. and foreign agencies to deter and investigate felony crimes and more. NCIS is the Navy's primary source of security and force protection for the men, women, ships, aircraft and resources of America's seagoing expeditionary forces worldwide. The three strategic priorities of NCIS are to: prevent terrorism, protect secrets and reduce crime.

To meet this mission, NCIS aggressively seeks to actively engage in public service outreach and crime prevention related programs. These types of efforts, in partnership with our counterpart law enforcement agencies, are critical for the safety of DON personnel and often their family members as well.

Information regarding personal safety is vital to military and civilian personnel serving America in foreign countries. The NCIS Far East Field Office (NCIS FE) has recognized this and invested in an effort to "flatten" the flow of law enforcement and other information regarding personal safety to forward deployed naval forces based in Japan.

Scope of the Problem

Each year, thousands of American military and civilian personnel and their families arrive in Japan for duty. Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan (CNFJ) estimates that 6,000 Navy and Marine Corps service members and their families are living off-base in Japanese communities. With the help of an orientation briefing and the assistance of the Military Family Housing office many assimilate readily into the local communities.

But while their Japanese neighbors are aware of potential criminal activity through the local police force, Americans living off-base generally have no inkling of possible threats in their neighborhoods. This is because Japanese police departments are not able to distribute safety or criminal activity information in English due to a lack of technical resources and time.

Japan has criminal activity like every other developed nation, and it became increasing clear that there was an increasing number of incidents affecting the personal safety of deployed personnel and their families.


The complexity in serving the information needs of deployed forces is expected to increase when the Norfolk-based Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN 73) relieves USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) in 2008 as the Navy's forward deployed aircraft carrier. This rotation is part of the Navy's long-range effort to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy's forward-deployed naval forces with newer or more capable platforms. It is part of an ongoing effort to consider the nature of all forward deployed forces when looking at the unpredictable security environment in the Western Pacific.

When the rotation occurs, it is estimated that there will be an estimated 10 percent increase in off-base residency. To fill this critical need, the Neighbor 2 Neighbor (N2N) program was designed to enhance the safety and security of personnel through effective electronic communications.

N2N implements a process that facilitates the transmittal of public safety information via the Internet from nearly all 54 local Japanese police departments to NCIS FE. There it is translated into English and then retransmitted via the Internet to Americans living in local communities.

The technology associated with this project is relatively low-level and accomplished through the Internet and e-mail. There are numerous Internet service providers in Japan and connectivity is readily available on or off-base. Future changes could include wireless or other accelerated methods of communication.


Because technology is a huge part of keeping these families informed, it is essential that service members and their families be technologically savvy. Fortunately, economic, technological and socio-cultural issues are minimal in this NCIS FE target group. Ages are between 19 and 55, the target group is employed and knowledgeable due to the skills they learned while serving their country.

Approach to Problem Resolution

Because there were a variety of factors involved in solving the problem, including international relations, marketing new ideas, instituting effective communications and relationship building, we followed the advice in several books that we found very useful in launching N2N: Contemporary Marketing, 11th edition, by Louis Boone and David Kurtz; The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman; and e-Business 2.0 Roadmap for Success by Marcia Robinson and Ravi Kalakota.

First, we identified our target markets and those that we wanted to build relationships with: local Japanese police departments, the Military Family Housing office, newly arriving naval personnel and their families and those families already living off base. We basically had to sell the N2N project to these communities to make N2N successful.

NCIS FE works very hard daily to maintain excellent relations with local Japanese police departments. This effort has grown into a combined effort to resolve critical information gaps and minimize risks to naval personnel and their families living off base.

Some good news that we found initially is that N2N is relatively cost-free for NCIS FE--the majority of the cost is in the translation process. During development, a test sample of data was obtained from two police stations. Two bilingual NCIS FE employees translated the information into English and timed their results. Testing revealed that, depending upon the volume of information incoming into NCIS FE from local police departments, one bilingual employee was able to rapidly translate and retransmit the information to off-base residents. N2N has proved to be an excellent return on investment for NCIS FE.

Also, due to the successful marketing of N2N, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police set a timetable for police stations without Internet capability to "get online."

The Tactical Market

The method for initiating the N2N project, following the internal preparation, was twofold. At the onset, CNFJ Military Family Housing was asked to provide a list of off-base residents by name, city and command. A letter was distributed that described N2N and invited residents to participate. To accept, recipients were advised to send an e-mail from their personal account to a pre-established NCIS FE e-mail address designed to separate incoming e-mail by location. Those who chose to participate were then added to an e-mail group according to local address and jurisdiction.

The second phase was focused on newly arriving people who were provided with a copy of the letter describing the project during the "Welcome Aboard" check-in.

Measuring Impact and Growth Potential

Metrics play an important role in any project. In law enforcement, crime statistics are indicators of success or failure in public safety. Some of the issues associated with success included a decrease in crimes committed against Americans, the number of off-base residents who signed up for participation and the increased number of Japanese police departments who came "online" to participate in this community service project. Success will also be measured in program longevity.

There is significant opportunity for further outreach to Americans residing off base. While analyzing our statistics, we found that there appears to be an opportunity to pre-screen residential areas and perhaps reduce potential victimization. This project could be expanded in the future to become a required channel for passing all types of information.

Clearly, our work is not done. We need to continuously engage with our target audience, maintain good international relations with local police departments and ensure we are meeting the safety needs of naval forward deployed personnel and their families.

The bottom line is that N2N allows U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families to make informed decisions about their safety and security in choosing where to live and travel off base in a foreign country.

Crime Statistics

Five street robberies, 20 purse snatchings, 193 bicycle thefts, 40 motorcycle thefts and 32 burglaries were reported in Yokohama from January to May 2006.

There were four cases of battery and six home burglaries in Kamakura in May 2006.

Hayama police reported 93 felony crimes between January and May 2006.

--Reported in Stars and Stripes Aug. 30, 2007

Special Agent Matthew E. Parsons is the assistant director for planning and evaluation at NCIS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
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Author:Parsons, Matthew E.
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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