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Crime in Japan rises for first time in 20 years

2022 number up from postwar low as street crime increases after COVID curbs eased

Japanese police officers participate in a drill to arrest a robbery suspect in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa prefecture on Jan. 10.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of crimes recorded in Japan in 2022 rose for the first time in 20 years, apparently due in part to an increase in street crime as COVID-19 restrictions eased, police data showed Thursday.

Overall, there were 601,389 incidents in which a crime was committed in Japan last year, up 5.9% from 2021, when the rate hit its lowest level in the postwar era. Consultations on domestic violence and suspected child abuse cases both hit all-time highs.

In an online survey conducted by the National Police Agency in October last year, 67.1% of respondents felt public safety in Japan had declined over the past 10 years, possibly affected by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assassination in July as well as a number of stabbings in recent years.

The 5,000 respondents, age 15 and older, cited random killings, defrauding by impersonation and child abuse as among crimes that came to mind.

The negative perception comes after three people were knifed outside the University of Tokyo ahead of nationwide entrance exams in January last year, while a woman and her daughter were stabbed by a girl in the capital's Shibuya district in August.

The country was additionally rattled by Abe's assassination on July 8, when the former prime minister was shot at close range during a campaign speech ahead of a national election.

There have also been a number of attacks on trains and in train stations in recent years, including a knife attack on a Tokyo train on the night of Halloween in 2021 in which 17 people were injured.

In the reporting year, police notified child consultation centers of a record 115,730 minors suspected to have been mistreated, while those regarding domestic violence rose to 84,493 cases. Police received 19,129 consultations on stalking, while street crime, such as bicycle theft, increased 14.4% from a year earlier to 201,619 cases.

Financial damage wrought by special fraud cases climbed 28.2% to 36.14 billion yen ($281 million) for the first increase in eight years. Monthly crime rates showed a gradual increase from spring as the government eased its coronavirus restrictions.

Crimes involving ransomware cyberattacks against companies and organizations climbed 57.5%, while illegal money transfers involving online fraud rose for the first time in three years to 1,131 cases.

Heinous crimes, including murder, were up 8.1% to 9,536 cases.

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