National / Crime & Legal

Record 3,578 involved in cannabis cases in 2018, with rate among Japan's teens up fivefold since 2014

Kyodo

Police took action against a record 3,578 people in cannabis cases in 2018, up 570 from the previous year, data released by the National Police Agency showed Thursday.

The NPA data showed the figure per 100,000 people doubled from 1.7 in 2014 to 3.5 in 2018, with a sharp growth seen among teens and those in their 20s. An NPA official said, “We are worried that more youths may use the drug without recognizing the hazards.”

By age group, the number per 100,000 people came to 6.0 among those aged 14 to 19, a more than fivefold jump from 1.1 in 2014. The figure more than doubled from 5.0 to 12.2 among people in their 20s while it increased from 4.1 to 7.3 among those in their 30s.

Of the 3,578 people, 2,928 were implicated in possession of cannabis, followed by 201 in dealing, 152 in cultivation, 138 in receiving and 63 in smuggling.

Police said 13,862 people were involved in overall drug cases, with stimulant drug cases topping the list at 9,868 despite a slight decline from the previous year. Cannabis cases came second, accounting for 25.8 percent of the total.

The number of people involved in cocaine cases more than tripled from 61 in 2014 to a record 197 in 2018, up 20 from a year earlier.

The amount of stimulant drugs seized by police nationwide in 2018 totaled 1,138.6 kilograms, topping 1 ton for the third straight year. That of cocaine jumped to 42.0 kg from 9.6 kg in 2017, while 12,303 pills, including synthetic drugs such as MDMA, were confiscated.

The street value of stimulants was ¥60,000 per gram, while that of cannabis was ¥5,000. Cocaine and heroin came in at ¥20,000 and ¥30,000, respectively, according to the NPA.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, the NPA said Thursday the number of people recognized as gangsters by police dropped to a record-low 30,500 in 2018 amid an intensified crackdown on organized crime.

The total, including yakuza members and those loosely associated with crime syndicates, fell about 4,000 from the year before, marking the 14th consecutive year of decline, according to the agency tally.

By group, Yamaguchi-gumi was the largest at 9,500 members, while Sumiyoshi-kai had 4,900 and Inagawa-kai had 3,700, the agency report said.

The number of crime syndicate members and associates investigated in crime cases by police reached 16,881 in 2018, down 856 from the previous year. Of that figure, those suspected of violating the Stimulants Control Law accounted for 4,569, while those who allegedly committed bodily harm stood at 2,042. A total of 1,749 cases of fraud were recorded.

“It is becoming harder to live as a crime syndicate member amid crackdowns and escalating social exclusion of members,” said an NPA official.

But the agency also said it had found yakuza were playing a key role in so-called special fraud cases, including defrauding old people by impersonating their children or their grandchildren and asking for urgent money transfers over the phone.

Of the 2,747 people police investigated last year over special fraud cases, 630 people, or 22.9 percent, were members of crime syndicates.

The agency said 24 of the 53 people who were recognized as the main culprits in special fraud cases were crime syndicate members, and 58 of the 121 coordinators in those cases were also gangsters.

Altogether, police confirmed more than 16,000 special fraud cases in 2018 and the amount swindled exceeded ¥35 billion.