The government and media would have you believe that Japan has lost its mantle as a safe country. Apparently we live amidst a spree of heinous crimes. Accurate? Not very, according to a new academic study. But before we get to that, let's take stock of one alleged cause of this "crime wave," this decade's boogeyman, the foreign criminal.

In May 1999, the National Police Agency established the "Policymaking Committee Against Internationalization" ("Kokusaika Taisaku Iinkai"), with budgets for public warnings and periodical bully pulpiting. In 2000, the committee got to work coloring the national debate, developing policy against the inherent criminality of an internationalizing Japan.

Suddenly Japan was no longer "safe." Fortified by biannual NPA reports, the media periodically served up shock-horror headlines (for example, the Sankei Shinbun of April 1, 2000, exaggerating a "six-fold rise" in foreign crime). Politicians (and even the emperor) called for tightened public safety, blaming "a million foreign murderers and crooks" (former lawmaker Etoh Takami on July 12, 2003) and "sneaky thieves" (Kanagawa Gov. Matsuzawa Shigefumi in December 2003).