Brazen Crime in Heart of Tokyo Stokes Safety Concerns

A robbery in one of Japan’s most bustling shopping districts was witnessed by many passersby, and a video of the entire incident quickly went viral. The brazen, violent crime has an enormous impact on society.

On the evening of May 8, three men wearing white masks broke into a watch shop on a main street in Tokyo’s Ginza district. They pulled a knife on a clerk and threatened to kill him, and smashed showcases with tools and stole more than 100 items, including luxury watches.

The men fled in a minivan parked in front of the shop. The vehicle was found three kilometers from the shop, and police arrested four males aged 16 to 19, including a high school student, on suspicion of breaking into a nearby building. Police are investigating a connection to the robbery in Ginza.

The crime unfolded on a road lined with shops selling luxury brands. It was not dark at the time of the robbery, and many pedestrians were walking past the shop. However, the perpetrators did not appear to be afraid of being seen and the raid continued for nearly 10 minutes. It was an extraordinary scene.

The incident was recorded on smartphones by passersby, many of whom posted footage on social media.

Bystanders might have been caught completely off guard by the unimaginable scene and prioritized recording footage rather than securing their safety or calling the police. However, there were concerns that while onlookers were concentrating on capturing images on their smartphones, they could have been caught up in the incident.

Such scenes further highlighted the unusual nature of the robbery.

Did the perpetrators commit such a reckless crime willingly, thinking that they would not get caught? Was someone giving them instructions behind the scenes? The police need to quickly get to the bottom of the case.

Since March, there have been a series of robberies of Tokyo jewelry shops during business hours in crowded areas such as Ueno and Shibuya. A man arrested in a case linked to a Shibuya robbery was quoted as saying that he received a request via social media.

There have been a number of so-called “dark part-time robberies” in which perpetrators have been recruited on social media. Even if perpetrators are arrested, such cases cannot be stemmed if the person pulling the strings plans other crimes. It is essential to crack down on the ringleader. The situation in which young people casually apply for such crimes must also be stopped.

If incidents like this continue to occur frequently, shops will also need to change their crime prevention systems. It is advisable to consider using showcases that are difficult to break and changing the way merchandise is displayed, among other measures.

A situation like this, in which a heinous crime occurs in full view of the public and is broadcast both domestically and internationally, could shake Japan’s reputation as a safe country. The question is how to prevent a recurrence of crimes that pose a challenge to society.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2023)