A string of vending machines across Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, have been torched and robbed, authorities said Wednesday — a rare event in a country where the ubiquitous machines usually escape thieves’ attention.
The Tokyo Fire Department said a total of 26 machines were destroyed between Sept. 14 and Tuesday, while television footage showed wide burn marks extending upwards from the machines’ coin slots. The thieves reportedly made off with at least ¥100,000 in the robberies.
Police suspect that whoever is behind the torchings intended to steal the cash inside, according to public broadcaster NHK.
It added that another four machines had been attacked in the cities of Misato and Yashio in Saitama Prefecture, adjacent to Katsushika Ward, early on Sunday morning.
The Honda Fire Department, which is in charge of the ward, says it is bolstering patrols in the area.
The fire department has also warned residents not to leave anything flammable near vending machines.
Upper House lawmaker Kota Matsuda responded to the news in a blog post on Monday by pointing out that the unusual arson attacks point to a growing need for the country to adopt tougher anti-theft technology on vending machines.
“Lots of foreign tourists express surprise at the sight of so many vending machines being left unattended on the streets, wondering how they could be left there without being robbed,” Matsuda wrote. “But it’s probably time (authorities) established more solid anti-crime measures regarding vending machines.”
The number of vending machines in Japan stood at 5.09 million units at the end of 2013, according to data released by the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association.
That compares with 6.58 million vending machines in the United States — which has a land area about 25 times larger than Japan’s — in 2012.
Unlike Japan, most vending machines in the U.S. are placed inside buildings to prevent theft, a staff member at the association said.
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