National | CHUBU CONNECTION

Aichi holds dubious distinction as nation's burglar capital

Chunichi Shimbun

Aichi Prefecture is once again ranked at the top of a dubious category, but this time it isn’t related to traffic fatalities.

As of the end of November, the prefecture was ranked highest in house and store break-ins with 6,550 reported cases — over 1,500 more than runner-up Chiba.

With the year-end approaching, Aichi is almost certain to earn the distinction of holding the top spot for 10 consecutive years.

The reason for this is that underworld groups make it possible for career burglars to strike repeatedly. Ironically, when the prefectural police crackdown on the situation, it only serves to increase the number of mobsters, causing these crimes to spread.

Security camera footage of one home burglary in Nagoya in July captured the perpetrators, clad in black from head to toe, arriving by car and hunching down low as they approached. They broke into the house in just 60 seconds. Ten minutes later, they got back in the car and drove off with their loot.

According to the victim, the burglars pried open one of the windows near the entrance with a crow bar or similar tool, and made out with his possessions, including precious metals, while he was away.

“It was over so quickly,” the victim said when he saw the footage.

In many similar cases, according to the Aichi Prefectural Police, burglars use stolen cars with bogus license plates. They also boldly continue their break-ins even if there are passers-by.

Last year, Aichi had the most reported break-ins in the country at 8,157, or roughly 10 percent of all burglaries nationwide. Stolen property amounted to ¥5.7 billion. The prefecture may be a popular target because it has a relatively large number of rich families and a well established road network, making it easier to escape.

The police launched a project in January 2015 to eliminate organized burglar groups. In the nearly two years since, they managed to bust 148 people from 45 groups.

However, members of underworld groups rarely divulge details of their crimes or the names of their accomplices during interrogation. Even if the police catch some members, the groups simply recruit new members to continue their burglaries.

Burglaries meanwhile seem to be spreading to the neighboring prefectures of Gifu and Mie, which are seeing high numbers of break-ins compared with prefectures of similar size. It is believed that Aichi underworld groups are involved in many of those crimes.

The Aichi Prefectural Police said that in one of the groups busted in May, two of the nine members were men from Shiga Prefecture. Later, they determined that the group was involved in over 200 theft cases involving empty houses and street stalls in Osaka, Kyoto and Wakayama prefectures as well as Aichi.

“They are spreading their knowledge of burglary. I would like to ask citizens to be aware of reported cases around them and take ample security measures, such as closing their doors properly and installing auxiliary locks,” said a member of the investigation team.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Dec. 18.