Shoplifting cases accounted for nearly 10 percent of all criminal offenses recognized by police, with the rate increasing, according to a National Police Agency survey.
By age group, the number of charged shoplifters increased only among people aged 65 or over.
“Measures to prevent the elderly from being isolated are necessary because the rise is not due chiefly to economic hardship,” the NPA said Wednesday.
After hitting a peak of some 2.85 million cases in 2002, the total number of criminal offenses processed or otherwise recognized by police dwindled to some 1.38 million in 2012.
By contrast, the shoplifting figure hit a record high of 158,020 in 2004 but has stayed at high levels, with some fluctuation. In 2012, the figure stood at 134,876, or 9.8 percent of all criminal offenses. The percentage increased for the 11th straight year from 4.6 percent in 2001.
The number of charged shoplifters started declining among minors in 1999 and adults under 65 in 2006. The figure for the elderly continued to rise, however, and remains higher than that of minors. In 2012, the elderly accounted for 24 percent of the population. The share of elderly among those who committed such crimes was higher, however, at 31 percent.
Food accounted for 68 percent of the items shoplifted by the elderly. The rate of products for daily use was higher among the elderly than among minors or adults under 65. Some elderly stole only a single rice ball or a bun filled with red-bean paste.
Those motivated by economic difficulties accounted for only 13 percent of the total elderly shoplifters.
According to a survey conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department in June, 37 percent of elderly shoplifters in Tokyo live alone, compared with 24 percent of all elderly people who live alone in the capital.