A 51-year-old woman was arrested in Japan for allegedly making 2,761 false emergency calls over a period of nearly three years.
Hiroko Hatagami, an unemployed woman from Matsudo in Japan’s Chiba prefecture, located east of the capital Tokyo, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of obstructing the operations of a local fire department.
The Chiba Prefectural Police alleged that the woman had made emergency calls repeatedly from her mobile phone and other means for the past two years and nine months. The calls were reportedly made both from her home and other locations in her neighbourhood.
The suspect admitted to making the calls because she was “lonely and wanted someone to listen to me and give me attention”, The Mainichi reported.
Between August 2020 and May 2023, she repeatedly made calls asking the Matsudo fire department to dispatch ambulances, complaining of stomach ache, drug overdose and aching legs among other symptoms.
When the ambulances arrived, she reportedly refused to be taken to hospital, claiming: “I don’t want to take an ambulance ... I didn’t make the call.”
Despite receiving warnings from the fire department and the police, the woman continued to make emergency calls. Eventually, the fire department filed a complaint with the police on 20 June, which led to her arrest.
Nearly 1.5 million people are estimated to be suffering from loneliness in Japan. The situation was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, which forced countries to confine people within their homes.
A survey conducted by Japan’s children and families agency in November found that roughly 2 per cent of respondents aged between 15 and 64 identified as hikikomori, a term that refers to people who have withdrawn from social contact.
In February 2021, Japan appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as the minister of loneliness in an effort to deal with the effects of the pandemic on social seclusion.
“Women are suffering from isolation more [than men], and the number of suicides is on a rising trend,” the prime minister at the time, Yoshihide Suga, told Mr Sakamoto when he announced the new role.
“I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” Mr Suga said, according to the Japan Times.
In 2013, a 44-year-old woman was arrested in Japan for calling the police more than 15,000 times over a six-month period. Authorities visited the woman’s home nearly 60 times before arresting her.
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