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The number of reported crimes in 1996 hit a postwar record of 2.466 million, up about 30,000 from the previous year, according to a Justice Ministry report released Oct. 14.The 1997 white paper on crime, which includes an overview of postwar trends, was submitted to the Cabinet by Justice Minister Kokichi Shimoinaba. The 1996 figure represents a 1.2 percent rise from the year before.About 64.4 percent of the crimes were thefts, while cases of negligence related to traffic accidents accounted for 26.5 percent. Statistics show the percentage of thefts and traffic accidents to the total have remained unchanged over the last decade, the ministry said.The number of murders dropped by 4.9 percent to 1,218 in 1996. The number of reported robberies, however, jumped 8.2 percent to 2,463.With Japan growing more international in recent years, the number of crimes involving foreigners staying in Japan has increased, the report says, citing a rise in the smuggling of foreigners into Japan, overstaying of visas and drug-related crimes. The ministry statistics cover foreign residents except permanent residents and individuals associated with the U.S. forces.Such trends have turned into “major social problems today and have proliferated a sense of danger among the public,” the report says. Cases in which criminals operate across international borders have also been on the rise, it says.The ministry pointed to a “big surge” in recent years in the number of crimes by foreigners. There were 19,513 cases in which such foreigners were charged with violations of the Penal Code last year, 23 times the figure of 1980, it says.The report says police “booked” — either arrested or turned over cases to prosecutors — a suspect in 98.3 percent of all murders and 80.1 percent of all robberies. It warns that drug-smuggling, the places narcotics are sold and methods of drug consumption are becoming “skillful and diversified.”

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