The other morning while I was home alone, I heard the apartment doorbell ringing and when I checked the security camera, I saw a policeman waiting outside the building. Normally, I do not answer the doorbell if I’m not expecting a visitor or a delivery, but seeing he was a policeman, I answered and let him in the building.
He came up to my floor and when I opened the door for him, he showed me this big folder containing green forms that supposedly contains emergency contact information if case there is an emergency or an accident. There are spaces to put contact information for family members and for the company I work for.
As I assumed it would take time to fill up the form and it will be hard to do so standing by the door entrance, I let the policeman in and gave him a seat at our small dining table. Assuming I couldn’t write in Japanese, he even helped me fill out the form with details I gave him such as full names, phone numbers, birthdays, and company contact information.
After filling the form, he asked me if I drive, and he even pointed out a particular corner in our neighborhood where I need to be extra careful, i.e. I should go to a full stop before turning left. Looks like this is the corner where most traffic offences happen in our neighborhood.
After the small chat, he was off, and that was it.
My wife arrived later that day and I told her about the visit from the local policeman, and one question from my wife struck me hard, “Are you sure he’s a policeman”?
Come to think of it, I was not. Aside from him wearing a policeman’s uniform, which I realized can easily be faked, I have no other confirmation that he really is a policeman. The realization that I let a total stranger into the house and gave him phone numbers and other personal details, struck me hard, and gave me a realization of how careless I can be.
To give myself peace of mind, I decided to immediately go down and drop by the nearest police station (koban) to confirm if that visit was really done by the policeman, or if I just gave some very detailed personal information to a potentially dangerous stranger, dressed as a policeman.
There are two police stations near my place. When I visited the nearest one, there was a sign saying the policeman on duty is out patrolling the neighborhood. I waited a while hoping they’d be back but after a few minutes, I decided to just go to the other police station, while thinking about the worst case scenario that if needed, my building has security cameras and we would have videos of the suspicious guy.
Luckily after arriving at the other station, there was a policeman manning it. I immediately asked him if the visit I had earlier in the morning was something the police normally would do, and is currently doing. Luckily, it is and he even showed me a copy of the green form that we filled earlier in the day. He politely explained to me in detail the reason why they do it — something to do with the police needing to know emergency contact information, in case of emergencies like earthquakes, fires, or traffic accidents.
Good to know that I did not just give my personal details to a potentially dangerous stranger. Made me realize though that I should not just easily let anybody in my apartment, or easily give away personal details, without due diligence.
On the flip side, it is also sad to know that we live in a society where it’s not impossible for people to dress up as policeman just to enter your home and extract our personal details. What is sadder is that many people could easily fall into that trap (as I found out, including myself) without due diligence.
Even if Japan is a relatively safe place, we can never be too sure.