Japan’s police hunts something productive, as the crime rate dips down

Police plays a vital role to keep the situation under control and there are several times when police do not reach on time in emergency situation due to dearth of police personnels.

But in Japan, you will be amazed to know  that the police run out of things to do, they are becoming more inventive about what constitutes a crime, says Kanako Takayama of Kyoto University. In one recent case, she says, they arrested a group of people who had shared the cost of renting a car, deeming the arrangement an illegal taxi. Some prefectures have begun prosecuting people who ride their bicycles through red lights.

In 2015 a man was arrested for scribbling Adolf Hitler moustaches onto posters of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister. Ms Takayama says detectives have started appearing without permission on university campuses, to monitor “troublesome” students. One reason why police are going after cyclists may be to make up for the steady fall in driving offences. (Both drivers and cyclists can avoid fines by signing up for remedial training at certified driving schools, which are often staffed by retired officers, notes Colin Jones of Doshisha University.) Fifteen years ago police in Hokkaido, in Japan’s sparsely populated north, conspired with yakuza gangsters to smuggle guns into the country so they could meet quotas for finding them.

The hunt for things to do may sometimes be beneficial. The number of reported cases of children being abused at home has almost doubled since 2010, despite the declining birth rate. That suggests the police are increasingly intervening in the domestic sphere, which they used to avoid.

Even critics of Japan’s justice system accept that it gets a lot right. Rates of recidivism are low and a great deal of effort is made to keep young offenders out of the prison system; police work with parents to keep young people on the straight and narrow. Adults are incarcerated at a far lower rate than in most rich countries: 45 per 100,000, compared with 146 in Britain and 666 in the United States.

Yet the police are oddly inefficient. Even though there are so many officers and so few crimes, they solve less than 30% of them. Confessions, often made under duress, form the basis of most criminal prosecutions. The courts dismissed the case of the beer thief in Kagoshima, despite all the work that went into it. Japan is almost crime-free not thanks to the police, says Yoshihiro Yasuda, a campaigning lawyer, but because people police themselves.

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