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Child abuse cases uncovered by police in the first half of this year rose 14.3 percent over the same period last year to a record of 120, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

“Public awareness about child abuse prevention has grown with the revision of the law. This has brought to light cases of abuse that were previously unnoticed and led more cases to be exposed by police,” the NPA claimed.

Between January and June, the number of people either arrested or handed over to prosecutors for child abuse totaled 131, up 12.9 percent, while the number of victims came to 128, up 18.5 percent, the NPA said.

These are the highest numbers since 2000, when the agency first began compiling data on a half-year basis.

Twenty-eight of the victims died, which is six more than last year, the agency said.

The agency, which divides child abuse into three categories, also said there was a 7.5 percent increase in physical abuse, which came to 86 cases.

Cases involving sexual abuse came to 23, up 4.5 percent, while parental neglect cases stood at 11.

The government revised the child welfare law in 2004, expanding the scope of possible abuse.

Gang prosecutions

Police handed prosecutors cases on 14,376 members and affiliates of underworld syndicates in the first half of 2006, down 233 (1.6 percent) from a year earlier, on suspicion of drug-trafficking, violent acts, theft and blackmail, the National Police Agency said in a report released Thursday.

The number of these suspects accused of trafficking in methamphetamines came to 3,406 (23.7 percent), up 116 from a year earlier, the report says.

Of the remainder, 1,962 (13.6 percent) were accused of violence resulting in injury, 1,562 (10.9 percent) for theft and 1,241 (8.6 percent) for extortion.

The number of economic crimes involving property and securities transactions has been rising. In May, Tokyo police arrested an underworld leader affiliated with Japan’s largest underworld syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi, on suspicion of illegally taking over the property rights of a building in Shibuya Ward.

There were no cases of gangland strife in the first half, compared with four cases in the same period in 2005.

The number of handguns seized from gangsters and their affiliates during the period came to 129, an increase of 31 from a year earlier.

There were several cases where two or more guns were confiscated at the same time, indicating organized crime is systematically procuring and distributing weapons, agency officials said.

There were about 80,000 gangsters and their affiliates in Japan as of Dec. 31, according to a separate police report released in February. The three largest syndicates — Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi and Tokyo-based Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai — account for 63,000, or 73 percent of the total.

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