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Reported crimes in Japan fell below 1 million mark last year

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The overall number of crimes committed in Japan continued to drop in 2016, falling below the 1 million mark for the first time in the postwar era, according to the annual White Paper on Crime released Friday by the Justice Ministry.

But it wasn’t all good news. The number of elderly offenders and the percentage of repeat offenders continued to rise, posing serious concerns, the paper says.

The annual report says the total number of crimes committed in 2016 dropped to 996,120, marking the 14th consecutive year of decline. The figure is roughly one-third the number logged in 2002.

The decline was mainly attributable to a drop in the number of theft cases, which accounted for more than 70 percent of overall crimes, the Justice Ministry said.

Those incidents declined partly because of the government’s beefed-up measures to prevent street crime, such as installing more surveillance cameras, a ministry official said.

Bucking the overall trend, child abuse incidents more than tripled over the past decade from 300 in 2007 to 1,041 in 2016, the paper shows. Domestic violence also nearly tripled, from 2,794 cases in 2007 to 7,450 in 2016, it says.

“Our nation’s overall state of crime has made significant improvements,” the report says. But to further improve safety here, crimes such as child abuse and domestic violence must be dealt with appropriately, and more effective measures to prevent repetition of crimes are needed, it says.

While the number of overall inmates has been on the decline since 2006, the percentage of repeat offenders among convicts has been rising since 2004, reaching 59.5 percent in 2016, the paper shows.

According to the paper, nearly 40 percent of former inmates released in 2012 were back behind bars within five years. Among them, roughly half committed crimes within two years of being released.

The percentage of recidivism was higher for seniors as 23.2 percent of them committed crimes within two years of release, compared to 18.1 percent for those aged between 30 and 64 and 11.1 percent for those aged 29 or under.

The number of seniors put in prison more than quadrupled since 1997, with the number standing at 2,498 in 2016. Elderly inmates — those aged 65 or over — accounted for 12.2 percent of all prisoners, up 1.5 percentage points from the previous year, the paper says. Among the total 2,498 senior inmates, 70.2 percent were recidivists.

The paper also shows that a total of 46,977 seniors were arrested last year. About 70 percent of them were accused of theft.