• Kyodo

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The number of crimes recorded in Japan in 2020 hit the lowest level in the postwar era for the sixth straight year, with a sharp decline in street crime as people stayed home during the coronavirus pandemic, police data showed Thursday.

However, the number of consultations on domestic violence and cybercrime reached record-high levels, according to the National Police Agency (NPA) data.

Overall, there were 614,303 criminal cases in Japan last year, down 17.9% from the 2019 figure — the fastest pace of decline on record.

“Changes in society such as the spread of ‘the new normal’ (amid the pandemic) will continue to impact the future crime situation,” an NPA official said. “But it’s possible that there are more victims of abuse, domestic violence and stalking who remain hidden, so we will take preventative measures by responding promptly to consultations.”

Street crime, including vending-machine vandalism and snatch-and-run cases, fell 27.0% from the previous year to 199,282. The decline was especially conspicuous after the first state of emergency over the virus was declared in April, with a 43.2% plunge on year seen in May.

Heinous crimes, including murder, dropped 9.7% to 8,934.

The number of consultations on domestic violence rose 0.5% from the previous year to a record 82,641, of which 8,701 cases were investigated.

Cybercrime cases increased 4.1% to a record 9,911. The number of suspicious connection attempts detected by police rose 55.2% to a daily average of 6,506.4 per IP address in 2020.

The rise may be attributed to more people working remotely amid the pandemic, and the increased use of home appliances and other devices connected to the internet, according to the NPA.

In the reporting year, police notified child consultation centers of 106,960 children suspected to have been abused, up 8.9% from 2019 to hit the highest level since comparable data became available in 2004.

Of the total, verbal and emotional abuse accounted for around 70% while physical abuse stood at 18%. Police investigated a record 2,131 child abuse cases in 2020, up 8.1%.

On stalking, police received 20,189 consultations in 2020, with the figure having remained above 20,000 every year since 2013.

Special fraud cases such as defrauding the elderly by impersonating their children or their grandchildren and asking for urgent money transfers over the phone declined 19.7% to 13,526, with the financial damage amounting to ¥27.78 billion ($263.4 million), down 12.0%.

Of these, 55 cases were related to the coronavirus pandemic, including frauds concerning government subsidies to people hit by the virus, with the total amount of money defrauded at around ¥100 million.

In Japan, crime cases hit a peak in 2002 when police recorded 2,853,739 cases.

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