Alarmed by the sharp rise in the number of burglaries involving picked locks, the National Police Agency is taking tougher measures to put the brakes on the trend.

Beginning today, the Japan Crime Prevention Association will establish a new certification system for door locks with pick-proof cylinders.

Association officials said they expect the move to help encourage the development of better cylinders that could be installed for around 10,000 yen, thereby reducing the high cost of having to change entire locks.

According to the NPA, one reason for the surge in the number of burglaries perpetrated by lock-picking thieves is the increase in Chinese gangs involved in the crime.

The trend is obvious in Saitama Prefecture, with 1,324 burglaries involving lock picking between January and April alone, a 1.7-fold increase over the 700 for all of 1999, the NPA said.

In Tokyo, the number of such burglaries totaled 6,111 in 1999. But in the four months to April the figure is already up to 4,393, police said.

Similar trends are also apparent in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, the NPA said.

Police figures also show that while lock-picking burglaries accounted for only about 25 percent of all break-ins in 1999, they accounted for nearly 50 percent in the first four months of 2000.

The NPA said the number of Chinese suspects arrested in lock-picking burglaries has been growing since the start of the year, and police said they have also discovered a hideout that is suspected of having served as a school for lock-picking.

The crime prevention association already has a certification system that judges the safety of whole locks, but they decided to create one for cylinders only in order to bring down the cost of making a door pick-proof, association officials said.