• Kyodo

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The number of crime syndicate members fell below 20,000 in 2016, as gang groups struggle to secure financing amid stronger police crackdowns and a growing civil movement to eliminate them, a National Police Agency report showed Thursday.

The figure dropped by about 2,000 from a year earlier to 18,100, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1958, the NPA said.

The number of semiregulars loosely allied with crime syndicates stood at around 20,900, according to the report, which for the first time comprehensively analyzed crimes including those related to drugs and firearms.

The report showed a shift in financing activities to those related to stimulant drugs as well as sophisticated tactics by foreign groups that targeted other countries from bases in Japan.

Per 1,000 crime syndicate members, police took action against 47.6 members on average in cases involving stimulant drugs in 2016, marking a 1.4-fold rise since 2007.

The increased activity around drug cases apparently reflects an effort to acquire more money through drug smuggling amid greater difficulties in blackmailing eateries and other businesses for “protection” fees.

The number of crime syndicate members and semi-regulars investigated in all crime cases has been declining since 2007, falling to 20,050 in 2016, down 1,593 from the year before.

Among the members in the 2016 figure, those suspected of violating the stimulants control law stood at 5,003, while those who committed bodily harm came to 2,514. Fraud was suspected in 2,072 cases.

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