The number of criminal offenses recorded by police in 2019 dropped 8.4 percent from the previous year to 748,623, hitting a postwar low for the fifth straight year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
The figure has declined 17 years in a row, according to a preliminary survey report from the agency.
The decline mainly reflected a fall in the number of cases of theft thanks to crime prevention efforts by local governments and volunteers, and the increased use of security cameras.
But police launched investigations into a record 1,957 child abuse cases in 2019, up 41.8 percent from the previous year, an official report showed Thursday.
The suspected abuse of a record 97,842 children under 18 was reported to child welfare centers, up 21.9 percent from 2018 and ballooning over 2½ times over the past five years, the National Police Agency said.
Of the 1,957 cases investigated by police last year, physical violence accounted for 1,629, followed by 243 sexual abuse cases, 50 psychological abuse cases such as verbal attacks and 35 cases of neglect.
There were also a record 2,095 children under 18 who fell victim to sexual and other crimes through social networking services in 2019, topping the previous high of 1,813 in 2017.
Of them, 859 were found to have fallen prey to sexual offenses in breach of local government ordinances, followed by 671 to child pornography and 428 to child prostitution.
A total of 109 children fell victim to more serious crimes, including 48 cases of rape and 45 cases of abduction. There were 15 indecent assault victims and one murder attempt was recorded.
The annual figure for abductions has been on the rise after it hovered between one and three per year from 2009 to 2014.
A 35-year-old man was arrested in November for allegedly kidnapping a sixth grader living in the city of Osaka after he made contact with her through Twitter.
He is suspected of taking her to his home in Tochigi Prefecture.
In January, the Aichi Prefectural Police began sending messages directly to people who have tweeted out offers of a place to stay for runaway girls, warning them such acts may constitute abduction of minors even if the child consents.
The survey also showed that the number of consultations sought by people suffering violence from their partners came to 82,201. Police took action on 9,083 domestic violence cases. Both figures were record highs.