- Crime in Japan
Crime in Japan is lower than in many other first world countries. While crime is still infrequent, the past decade has seen increasing crime. There are controversies regarding crimes committed by non-ethnic Japanese people and misconduct by police in reporting crime statistics.
The yakuza had existed in Japan well before the 1800s and followed codes similar to the bushido of the samurai. Their early operations were usually close-knit, and the leader and gang members had father-son relationships. Although this traditional arrangement continues to exist, yakuza activities are increasingly replaced by modern types of gangs that depend on force and money as organizing concepts. Nonetheless, yakuza often picture themselves as saviors of traditional Japanese virtues in a postwar society, sometimes forming ties with right-wing groups espousing the same views and attracting dissatisfied youths to their ranks.
Yakuza groups in 1990 were estimated to number more than 3,300 and together contained more than 88,000 members. Although concentrated in the largest urban prefectures, yakuza operate in most cities and often receive protection from highranking officials. After concerted police pressure in the 1960s, smaller gangs either disappeared or began to consolidate in syndicate-type organizations. In 1990, three large syndicates (Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai, Inagawa-kai) dominated organized crime in the nation and controlled more than 1,600 gangs and 42,000 gangsters. Their number have since swelled and shrunk, often coinciding with economic conditions.
The yakuza tradition also spread to the Okinawa island in the 20th century. The Kyokuryu-kai and the Okinawa Kyokuryu-kai are the two largest known yakuza groups in Okinawa Prefecture and both have been registered as designated boryokudan groups under the Organized Crime Countermeasures Law since 1992.
- Felonies—the most serious and carrying the stiffest penalties—includes murder and conspiracy to murder, robbery, rape, and arson.
- Violent offenses consist of unlawful assembly while possessing a dangerous weapon, simple and aggravated assault, extortion, and intimidation.
- Larceny encompasses burglary, vehicle theft, and shoplifting.
- Crimes classified as intellectual include fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting, forgery, bribery, and breach of position of trust.
- Moral offenses include gambling, indecent exposure, and the distribution of obscene literature.
- Miscellaneous offenses frequently involve the obstruction of official duties, negligence with fire, unauthorized entry, negligent homicide or injury (often in traffic accidents), possession of stolen property, and destruction of property. Special laws define other criminal offenses, among them prostitution, illegal possession of swords and firearms, customs violations, and possession of controlled substances, including narcotics and marijuana.
In 1990 the police identified over 2.2 million Penal Code violations. Two types of violations—larceny (65.1 percent of total violations) and negligent homicide or injury as a result of accidents (26.2%)—accounted for over 90 percent of criminal offenses in Japan. In 1989 Japan experienced 1.3 robberies per 100,000 population, compared with 48.6 for West Germany, 65.8 for Great Britain, and 233.0 for the United States; and it experienced 1.1 murder per 100,000 population, compared with 3.9 for West Germany, 1.03 for England and Wales, and 8.7 for the United States that same year. Japanese authorities also solve a high percentage of robbery cases (75.9%, compared with 43.8% for West Germany, 26.5% for Britain, and 26.0% for the United States) and homicide cases (95.9% , compared with 94.4% for Germany, 78.0% for Britain, and 68.3% for the United States). This is connected to the fact that prosecutions are less likely to be successfully challenged compared to the above mentioned countries, a fact that has caused human rights concerns and has led to a change in the law which took effect in 2009.
According to Ruth Benedict's shame culture/guilt culture analysis, an important factor keeping crime low is the traditional emphasis on the individual as a member of groups to which he or she must not bring shame. Within these groups—family, friends, and associates at work or school—a Japanese citizen has social rights and obligations, may derive emotional support, and meets powerful expectations to conform. These informal social sanctions display potency despite competing values in a changing society.
Ownership of handguns is forbidden to the public, hunting rifles and ceremonial swords are registered with the police, and the manufacture and sale of firearms are regulated. The production and sale of live and blank ammunition are also controlled, as are the transportation and importation of all weapons. Crimes are seldom committed with firearms, yet knives remain a problem that the government is looking into, especially after the Akihabara massacre.
Of particular concern to the police are crimes associated with modernization. Increased wealth and technological sophistication has brought new white collar crimes, such as computer and credit card fraud, larceny involving coin dispensers, and insurance fraud. Incidence of drug abuse is minuscule, compared with other industrialized nations and limited mainly to stimulants. Japanese law enforcement authorities endeavor to control this problem by extensive coordination with international investigative organizations and stringent punishment of Japanese and foreign offenders. Traffic accidents and fatalities consume substantial law enforcement resources.
Crimes by non-Japanese
Although the total number of crimes by non-Japanese is substantially lower than those by Japanese, the public perception is that the influx of immigrants has led to the crime increase. A large portion of crimes by immigrants are by Chinese in Japan, and some highly publicized crimes by organized groups of Chinese (often with help of Japanese organized crime) have led to a negative public perception. News media often report a crime was committed by Chinese even when the fact is not known.
- ^ Fackler, Martin (April 19, 2007). "Low-Crime Japan Seeks Answers to Killing of Mayor of Nagasaki". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/19/world/asia/19japan.html. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- ^ "Outline of Boryokudan in Okinawa Prefecture", October 2007, Okinawa Prefectural Police (Japanese)
- ^ a b French, Howard W. (September 30, 1999). "Disdainful of Foreigners, the Japanese Blame Them for Crime". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/30/world/disdainful-of-foreigners-the-japanese-blame-them-for-crime.html. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- ^ Wudunn, Sheryl (March 12, 1997). "Japan Worries About a Trend: Crime by Chinese". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/12/world/japan-worries-about-a-trend-crime-by-chinese.html. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
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