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A National Police Agency study panel is planning a law against possessing equipment used for lock-picking, its members said Thursday.

A bill is to be submitted to the Diet during the upcoming session that would ban people from possessing tools used exclusively to open locks, unless they have legitimate reasons.

It is hoped the legislation, along with the spread of better-quality locks, will help prevent burglaries involving lock-picking, which have surged in recent years, the NPA said. Such break-ins in 2001 were double the number of 1999.

In addition to tools specifically for lock-picking, the draft also makes it illegal to carry concealed certain designated tools that could be used in break-ins, including drills and crowbars, they said.

Heavier penalties would also be imposed on those who sell or give the specialized lock-picking tools to unauthorized parties, according to the panel members.

Under current law, the concealment or carrying of tools that can be used for break-ins without legitimate reason is banned, but, according to the NPA, the penalties are light. The bill would carry prison terms or fines for offenders, the members said.

It would also stipulate that the government and local-level authorities provide lock manufacturers with information on criminals’ lock-picking methods in a bid to produce better locks.

The panel is considering requiring manufacturers to demonstrate to customers how pick-proof their locks are.

Under current law, someone carrying lock-picking tools can be arrested. But the bill would make it possible to arrest someone not carrying such equipment if it is known that the person possess such devices, the panel members said.

The panel also said the National Public Safety Commission should be authorized to order lock makers to take corrective steps if and when new picking techniques are discovered.

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