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Excluding criminal violations involving traffic accidents, about 2.27 million crimes came to the attention of police in 2005, according to the 2006 white paper on crime. The figure was 11.4 percent lower than the year before and around 20 percent (580,000 incidents) lower than the peak year 2002. The overall decline should serve as a catalyst for encouraging the government as well as the public to enhance their crime-prevention efforts.

The decline occurred mainly in thefts, which accounted for about three-quarters of the nonvehicular penal code offenses in 2005. The number of theft cases — 1.72 million — was down 27.4 percent (652,000 incidents) from the peak of 2.37 million in 2002.

The white paper, compiled and published by the Research and Training Institute of the Justice Ministry, offers insight into the relationship between crime and the general social situation. It says a high unemployment rate leads to an increase in thefts and other property-related crimes, while a low unemployment rate presages a decrease in overall crime.

In 2002, when the unemployment rate hit 5.4 percent, the highest in recent years, the number of nonvehicular offenses reached a postwar peak of 2.85 million. As the jobless rate fell to 4.4 percent in 2005, so did the number of total offenses. Economic and labor policymakers should consider the white paper’s opinion that helping ex-convicts get employment is an important tool for preventing crime.

Although the number of crimes, excluding thefts, decreased by about 37,000, or 6.4 percent, in 2005 after reaching a postwar record of 581,000 in 2004, cyber-crime has been steadily climbing — from 1,209 incidents in 2001 to 2,811 in 2005. The rise in Internet fraud through online auctions has been remarkable. The number of incidents increased from 485 in 2001 to 542 in 2004, and then jumped to 1,408 in 2005.

This trend should remind us that the overall decline in crime is no reason for people to let down their guard against the dangers of being deceived through use of the computer.

Of the total number of suspects sent to prosecutors or processed according to nonprosecutorial proceedings in connection with nonvehicular offenses in 2005, more than 37 percent were repeat offenders. It is clear that merely confining offenders in penal facilities does little to prevent crime. Under the convict treatment law that went into effect in May 2006, various programs have been introduced to help convicts overcome the tendency to repeat crimes, including sex offenses. Taking into consideration their personal characteristics and upbringing, the programs are aimed at helping convicts stop using narcotics, leave mob organizations, empathize with the suffering of crime victims and deal with emotional problems.

Convicts who meet certain conditions are now allowed to work outside penal facilities. It is hoped that prison authorities will administer this measure with care and strengthen efforts to find jobs for ex-convicts so that those who have paid their debts to society have a better chance of smoothly returning to it.

The white paper also touches on the criminal recidivism rate of sex offenders. Of the 672 sex-crime convicts released from prison in 1999, nearly 40 percent committed a crime after their release. If only sex crimes are taken into account, though, the repeat rate barely topped 11 percent. In June 2005, the Justice Ministry started supplying the National Police Agency with information on the addresses of convicted sex offenders in cases where children younger than 13 were victims. It also started a program under which sex offenders on probation learn how to control themselves and get along with others.

The ministry is putting its hopes in an education program for sex offenders that was introduced last April inside penal facilities. The main component of the program is group work, in which convicts discuss their reaction to particular situations in daily life. Through these discussions they discover various opinions and views, and learn desirable modes of behavior. In Canada, which uses such a program, the number of sex crimes dropped from 31,700 in 1995 to 26,160 in 2004.

The white paper included a study of 310 sex crimes against children under 13. Within this age group, 7-year-olds were the most frequent victims (81 incidents) followed by 8-year-olds (49 incidents). Most of the crimes happened on the street (126 incidents), and the most common time of occurrence was around 3 p.m. (73 incidents).

This information may be helpful to volunteer crime-prevention patrols. The number of citizens taking part in these groups stood at 1.19 million at the end of 2005, more than double the previous year. To achieve the most effective crime-prevention results, police, other administrative bodies and grassroots volunteers need to work together.

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