• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

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Foreigners were involved in 40,615, or 1.45 percent, of the more than 2.7 million crimes committed in Japan last year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The figure for foreigners is up 16.9 percent from the previous year and tops 40,000 for the first time, the agency said.

The number includes visa violations and excludes foreigners with permanent residency status.

Police arrested or sent cases to prosecutors on 20,007 foreign nationals in 2003, up 23.4 percent on a year-on-year basis and above 20,000 for the first time. The NPA began keeping such data in 1980.

“We can’t help but recognize this (figure) as a problem in terms of security,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said, adding that the government would make further efforts to crack down on foreign criminals.

But at the same time, he also stressed that any prejudice that regards all foreigners as potential criminals should be eradicated, particularly because the government is now staging campaigns to invite more foreign visitors to Japan.

“A majority of foreigners (in Japan) are living peacefully, adapting to local life,” Fukuda said.

According to NPA statistics for the January-June period of 2003, 267,940 Japanese were either arrested or sent to prosecutors for Penal Code violations. The corresponding figure for foreigners was 12,507.

Foreigners were involved in 27,258 serious crimes, including murder and robbery, an increase of 12.4 percent from the year before.

Sixty-one foreigners were charged with murder, up 48.8 percent, while 369 were charged with robbery, up 31.8 percent, the NPA said.

Of the total, 13,357 foreigners were charged with offenses such as prostitution, illegal possession of weapons and or overstaying their visas.

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