Despite an overall decline in reported crimes nationwide, those committed by repeat offenders reached a record high in 2006, according to a Justice Ministry white paper released Tuesday.

The report reveals that people with a previous record who were turned over to prosecutors for possible indictment accounted for 149,164 crimes, or 38.8 percent of all “cleared” cases in 2006. A case is “cleared” when it is handed to prosecutors.

According to a crime study conducted on 1 million random convicts who had their guilty sentences finalized between 1948 to 2006 for offenses excluding traffic law violations, 58 percent of the cases were committed by repeat offenders, the report says.

Younger criminals were more likely to break the law again within five years of their first conviction, compared with older convicts, the report says.

“The study shows that a small number of people commit a large portion of the crimes,” the report notes, adding that efforts must be made to analyze the cause of crimes and impose measures to rehabilitate young offenders.

Offenders who undergo rehabilitation must have help finding employment, and repeat offenders must be put under strict probation, the report recommends.

The number of nonvehicular penal code offenses committed by all foreign nationals dropped to 37,365 cases in 2006, down a steep 14.3 percent from the previous year.

The decline was the first since 2002 and it came despite an increase in foreigners entering Japan to a record 6.73 million in 2006, up 10 percent from 2005, the report says.

In 2005, nonvehicular penal code offenses by foreign nationals reached a record high 43,622 cases.

Of the 27,453 cases handed to prosecutors in 2006 involving foreigners who do not live in Japan, 23,137 were for larceny and 188 were for robbery.

The number of overall penal code offenses decreased 7.9 percent from the previous year to 2.88 million, and the number of people turned over to prosecutors dropped to 1.24 million, a 2.9 percent annual decrease.

“The total number of reported crimes has declined since it peaked in 2002 and the decrease rate is getting slightly wider,” the paper says.

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