Crime in Japan on Rise for 1st Time in 20 Years

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The entrance of the National Police Agency building

The number of criminal offenses confirmed last year increased 5.9% from the previous year to 601,389, the first rise in 20 years, according to the National Police Agency’s provisional statistics on crime.

The increase seems to be partly due to the easing of restrictions on movement put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a NPA survey, 67.1% of respondents said that “public safety has worsened.”

According to the NPA, the number of criminal offenses had been falling since its peak of about 2.85 million cases in 2002, and a postwar low of 568,104 cases was recorded in 2021.

Last year, however, “street crimes” such as bicycle theft and assault on the street increased 14.4% from the previous year to 201,619, pushing up the overall number of recognized criminal offences. The NPA believes that this is attributed to the easing of movement restrictions amid the pandemic.

The number of cases of “special fraud,” such as “It’s me” scams in which perpetrators pretend to be a child or grandchild to swindle large sums of money from the elderly, increased about 20% from the previous year to reach 17,520. The amount of damage also increased for the first time in eight years, reaching about ¥36.1 billion, up about ¥7.9 billion from the previous year.

The number of major crimes such as murder and sex crimes increased by 715 from the previous year to 9,536 cases. Among them, the number of break-in robberies decreased by 7 to 290 cases. This figure includes a string of robberies committed in the Kanto region and elsewhere by a crime ring, whose members were recruited through “dark” part-time job offers.

The overall arrest rate for criminal offenses was more than 45% in 2020 and 2021, but fell to 41.6% last year. For major crimes such as murder, the rate was 87.6%, down 5.8 percentage points from the previous year, while for major theft crimes such as burglary, it was 58.2%, down 14.8 percentage points.

In an online survey conducted last October by the NPA on 5,000 men and women aged 15 and older, 67.1% answered “worse” or “somewhat worse” when asked whether or not they think public safety had improved in the past 10 years, up 3 percentage points from 64.1% the previous year.

When respondents who said that public safety had worsened were asked what the most common crime that came to mind was, 63.5% of them chose “indiscriminate killing or wounding.” This topped the answers in the question with multiple choices allowed. “Special fraud” came second at 62.4%, followed by “child abuse” at 55.5%.

The survey was conducted before a series of robberies resulting from “dark” part-time jobs came to light and, therefore, the sense of public safety may be even worse now.

“The security situation is severe,” a senior NPA official said. “We will manage the police organization flexibly and promote effective countermeasures.”