The head of the National Police Agency said June 24 that Japanese are becoming increasingly fearful for their safety due to a series of recent terrorist acts here and abroad, as well as an increasing number of crimes committed by foreigners living in Japan.

At a press conference in Tokyo, NPA chief Yuko Sekiguchi said 1995 was a turning point for public safety because of two major incidents: The Great Hanshin Earthquake and the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, allegedly carried out by members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult. He also mentioned the shooting of then NPA chief Takaji Kunimatsu 10 days after the gas attack. Police say they have not found the gunman.

Sekiguchi, who succeeded Kunimatsu in March, said that although the ratio of arrests to crimes is still high — some 96 percent in murder cases — Japanese people are worried over what may happen next because such alarming incidents have never occurred before.

Referring to the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Sekiguchi said that police officers stationed at Japanese embassies in 60 countries will step up gathering and analysis of information and that their number will be increased from the current 80. In addition, Sekiguchi said the NPA’s Special Assault Team, consisting of 200 officers based in six cities across Japan, should be equipped with a larger number of “small and effective” weapons and train with their overseas counterparts to prepare for contingencies similar to that in Lima.

Commenting on crimes related to foreigners living in Japan, Sekiguchi said, “Although internationalization is good for the country’s politics and economy, it isn’t any help in maintaining public peace.” Japan traditionally depended on its island status for safety because the ocean kept foreigners at a distance, he added.

But times have changed. Of the more than 2.4 million foreigners illegally staying in Japan, some are helping Chinese criminal groups promote illegal immigration or commit other crimes to pay back the money owed to the Chinese gangsters who smuggled them into Japan, Sekiguchi claimed. He said the police will further investigate the activities of foreign criminal groups and cooperate with foreign police agencies to halt the influx of illegal immigrants.

Pointing to an increase in the number of crimes related to guns and drugs, he said, “‘Deregulation’ is a fashionable word at the moment, but deregulation of guns and drugs is unacceptable.”

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