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Security cameras credited for record low criminal offenses in Japan

Security cameras are seen in Osaka's Chuo Ward in this 2018 file photo. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

TOKYO -- The number of criminal offenses recognized by police across the country hit a new postwar low of 817,445 in 2018, the National Police Agency (NPA) announced on Feb. 7.

The provisional figure marks the 16th consecutive year-on-year decrease and dips below 30 percent of the peak figure recorded in 2002. The NPA attributed the downward trend to the widespread installation of security cameras and improved anticrime systems equipped on motor vehicles and houses.

The number of recognized criminal offenses peaked at 2,853,739 in 2002 and has since been on the decline, registering postwar lows for four straight years since 2015. "The number of street crimes such as bicycle theft, purse-snatching and theft from vending machines, which used to stand high, has dropped, while special fraud and cybercrime cases are on the rise," said a senior NPA official.

By type of crimes, the number of thefts shrank by 73,281, down 11.2 percent from 2017. Although the offense still accounted for more than 70 percent of the overall crimes, the large drop contributed to 75 percent of the overall decrease in criminal cases. Specifically, the number of bicycle thefts dwindled by 21,498, down 10.5 percent, while motorbike thefts and car break-ins also saw a downward trend.

Meanwhile, the number of special fraud cases including bank transfer scams targeting elderly citizens fell by 1,719 to 16,493, while 5,162 of those cases led to arrests or reports to prosecutors, up 518. A record high of 9,046 cybercrime cases, including online auction fraud, were exposed last year, up 32 from a year earlier.

As for felonies, the number of burglaries stood at 1,787 in 2018, down 65 from the year before, while that of murders and arson reached 915 and 891, down by five and 68, respectively.

The ratio of arrests for criminal offenses rose to 37.9 percent, up 2.2 percentage points from 2017.

(Japanese original by Toshiaki Uchihashi, City News Department)

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