National / Crime & Legal

Crime at postwar low: 2016 white paper

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

Crime plummeted to a postwar low in 2015 but the increase in offenses committed by seniors remains an issue, the annual White Paper on Crime revealed on Friday.

According to the Justice Ministry report, the number of crimes sank 9.4 percent to 1.09 million compared with the previous year, stretching the downtrend to 13 consecutive years.

By category, robbery topped the list with 807,560 cases, or 73.5 percent of the total, followed by property damage, fraud and assault.

Despite the overall drop, however, stalking incidents shot up to 677 — more than three times the figure logged in 2011, while child abuse rose to 785, climbing for the second year in a row.

Crimes committed by people 65 or older also continued to edge up, climbing 0.8 percent over the previous year and 3.8 times higher than in 1996. Senior citizens accounted for about 20 percent of all criminal offenders in 2015.

The report also said 40 percent of the inmates released in 2011 became repeat offenders within five years. About 70 percent of all current inmates age 65 or older are repeat offenders.

The ministry surveyed inmates 65 or older who had committed a crime within five years of leaving prison in 2011 and found that 40 percent did so in less than six months. This signals a need to support their rehabilitation because many senior ex-convicts cannot find jobs or get support from their families.

Stopping elderly crime is a pressing issue at a time when prisons are becoming more like nursing homes. Many inmates need assistance walking, bathing and eating.

To deal with the increase in elderly inmates, Asahikawa Prison in Hokkaido in February refurbished some of its older facilities and made them barrier-free. This has drawn criticism that prisons are being too accommodating to criminals.

Acquittals meanwhile remained low. Only 88, or 0.03 percent, of the 333,755 people who were charged were proven not guilty in 2015.

Japan, which has seen a number of high-profile convictions overturned in recent years, has a 99 percent conviction rate.

Two people received the death sentence and 27 received life sentences.

Crimes committed by foreign residents and tourists in 2015 fell 4.7 percent from the previous year. The number foreign visitors arrested had grown slightly in the previous three years.

Given the dramatic surge in tourism, it is necessary to keep an eye on the situation in the future, a Justice Ministry official said.