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As the nation continues to come to grips with the murder and mutilation of an 11-year-old boy in Kobe, the National Police Agency reported June 19 that the number of elementary school children who became victims of crimes in 1996 rose 11.6 percent from the previous year to 23,720.

There are no signs that the trend is abating. In the first five months of this year, 9,568 children were victims of such crimes — a figure that corresponds to about 40 percent of last year’s total. “We’re very much concerned about the continuing heinous crimes targeting schoolchildren,” Education Minister Takashi Kosugi told a meeting of prefectural and municipal education board officials nationwide.

“Such crimes can happen in any school and in anybody’s neighborhood,” Kosugi said, urging school officials to boost security and educate kids about the danger. According to the NPA, in 1996, 17 children were slain, six were robbed, 92 were assaulted and 101 were abducted, up 31.2 percent from the previous year. No information was provided on the status of the kidnap victims. There were also 293 cases of extortion involving children and 931 cases of child molestation.

Eight schoolchildren were slain in the January-May period of this year and kidnap cases have already reached 43. Again, no details were provided about the status of the abducted.

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