National / Crime & Legal

Intrafamily crime a reflection of Japan's aging society

Kyodo

More than a third of the murders, attempted murders and fatal assaults involving members of the same family in 2014 were motivated by “fear of the future,” such as concerns about caring for elderly relatives or managing financial hardship, according to police data released Monday.

Parents were the most frequent victims, according to the first detailed breakdown of such cases for a full year. That’s an indication that many people are unable to cope with caring for their aging parents, officials said.

Such cases may increase in the future, as many people in fast-graying Japan continue to face difficulties in securing a slot in nursing care facilities, support groups for caregivers warn.

The National Police Agency data revealed that of the 272 intrafamily cases investigated, 168 were murders, 74 were attempted murders and 30 were assaults resulting in deaths.

A total of 33 percent of the victims were parents of the assailants, 27 percent were spouses, and 25 percent were children, the study found.

By motive, the largest proportion of cases, at 33 percent, were attributed to “fear of the future,” committed because of exhaustion from taking care of parents or children, as well as financial troubles. Relationship troubles came in next with 25 percent, followed by mental problems of the assailants at 21 percent.

In 84 percent of the cases, the victims and the assailants were living under the same roof, and in the cases in which the victims survived the attacks, 67 percent continued to live together.

People who attack their parents are “very serious and overly hardworking” but become isolated both mentally and socially, according to Fumiko Makino, head of a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization that provides help to caregivers.

She said intrafamily crimes could rise as eligibility rules for insurance coverage of nursing care become stricter and as it becomes increasingly difficult to join public nursing care facilities, underscoring the need for more professionals supporting caregivers.

The police tally for overall crime last year showed that the number of cases investigated on suspicion of murder and attempted murder nearly halved to 770 from 1979 levels, but on an intrafamily basis the number, totaling 425 last year, has been broadly flat.

“Intrafamily crimes are difficult to prevent as measures for curbing street crimes cannot be applied to them,” said a police official in charge of the analysis.

An NPA panel met Monday to review the system for providing benefits to crime victims, including financial assistance for people who sustain major injuries or fall seriously ill as well as for families of people who are killed.

The benefits have in principle not been provided over intrafamily crimes to prevent the money from ending up in the assailants’ pockets, but the panel is seeking to revise the ruled to allow for case-by-case decisions.