Japan’s juvenile crime at postwar record low, but rising marijuana use concerns police agency


The number of teens implicated in cases involving marijuana increased by more than fivefold between 2013 and 2017, the National Police Agency said, raising concern that use of the drug is spreading among juveniles.

A total of 297 people aged between 14 and 19 were subject to police action in marijuana-related cases in 2017, up 87 from a year earlier, according to NPA data. Those under 14 cannot be held criminally liable for their actions under Japan’s Juvenile Law.

“Nowadays (marijuana) can be obtained easily online and it is possible that (juveniles) are abusing it just to satisfy their curiosity,” an agency official said.

Of 275 of the individuals 155 were employed, 67 were unemployed and 53 were high school students, with a three-to-fivefold increase seen since 2013 across individuals in those groups. A further two were junior high school students, 10 were university students and 10 were in other education programs.

Regarding crime in general, the number of juveniles subject to police action in 2017 fell 4,719 from a year earlier to 26,797, the lowest number of cases seen in postwar years.

The number of juveniles subject to law enforcement also fell to a record-low of 3.8 per 1,000 people within the same age bracket, largely reflecting a drop in theft cases.

But more teens were caught in money transfer fraud cases, which often involve phone scams, with the figure climbing by 126 from a year earlier to 478. More than 70 percent of the juveniles involved collected cash at their victims’ homes.

Police took action on or brought into custody juveniles in 155 cases related to bullying, most of which involved injury or assault. The number of youths implicated in those cases stood at 245, down 22 from a year earlier.