Police in 2005 turned over 1.5 million criminal cases to prosecutors, a 1.8 percent drop from the previous year, but cyber crimes rose as more people were defrauded in Internet auctions, the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

Of the total, nonvehicular penal code offenses declined 2.7 percent to 649,782 cases, the ministry said in its annual white paper.

“The total number of reported crimes has declined since it peaked in 2002,” the paper says, claiming neighborhood vigilance that became more widespread in the last couple of years in the wake of heinous crimes targeting children may have contributed to the decline in overall crime.

However, the report also says crime rates “still remain at a high level” and trends are hard to predict.

It says high-tech offenses have been rising in recent years. Cyber crimes have been steadily growing in the last five years but leaped substantially from 1,884 instances in 2004 to 2,811 in 2005.

The increase was attributed to the surge in Internet fraud through online auctions, from 542 case in 2004 to 1,408 in 2005.

On sex offenders, the report points to the need to prevent repeat offenses.

From a survey of 672 sex offenders who were released from prison facilities in 1999, the Justice Ministry’s research department found that 127 had committed offenses before being arrested, and 36 of the 127 committed were convicted of further sex crimes after being released.

The number of nonvehicular offenses committed by foreign nationals reached a record 43,622 cases in 2005, up 4.3 percent from the previous year, and coincides with the 11.1 increase from 2004 in foreigners entering Japan, reaching a record 6.12 million in 2005, the report says.

Although nonvehicular offenses committed by foreign nationals represents only 6.7 percent of the country’s total crimes, the report states there were sharp increases in crimes by foreigners in Shiga, Nara and Gifu Prefectures.

Nonvehicular penal code offenses by foreign nationals rose 950.2 percent in Shiga from 2001 to 2005, by 582.1 percent in Nara and 465.2 percent in Gifu, the report says.

Theft accounted for 28,525 of the 43,622 criminal cases involving foreigners in 2005, it says.

Visa violations were not included among crime figures for foreigners.

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