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Japanese police: Calling all 3G phones

People with third-generation mobile phones, which are capable of capturing video footage, are being called on to assist in Japan's fight against crime.

Police officers in Japan believe third-generation (3G) mobile phones can be used to capture video footage of criminals in action and are encouraging people with the phones to assist them in their fight against crime.

Thursday's edition of the Mainichi Daily News reports that officers in Osaka have set up an emergency videophone hotline. They hope people with 3G phones who witness a crime will be able to e-mail an image, or even a video clip of the action, to the Osaka police.

Japanese mobile giant NTT DoCoMo launched its 3G service last year. It provides a constant high-speed connection to the Internet, and subscribers can use a smartphone that includes a built-in digital camera.

The emergency videophone hotline is expected to start April 1, and the Osaka police are reported to be confident that it will make it easier for them to identify offenders.

In the U.K., where 3G services may launch later this year, mobile phones have been partly responsible for a crime wave so worrying that Britain's most senior judge recently demanded stiffer sentences for those found guilty of mobile theft, especially where violence was involved.

Graeme Wearden reported from London.