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Japan Times on Foreign Crime in Japan


25 Apr 2002
Hello All. We've heard a lot about "foreign crime" (it's on the wide shows every day) these days.

However, there is a strict lack of balance in the media (as well as, as I have mentioned, in the police methods of targeting criminality) on the topic.

As a counterweight, here is an article published today in The Japan Times:

By Arudou Debito
Written September 18, 2002, published October 4, 2002

It's become a ritual: Reports about the foreign crime wave.

The National Police Agency recently announced the number of crimes committed by foreigners on temporary visas jumped by 25.8%. Serious crimes like murder, robbery, and arson, up 18.2%. Foreigners are three times more likely than Japanese to commit crimes in groups, etc.. Splashed across the mass media apparently as a public service.

People like reruns. On May 1, 2000, the Sankei Shimbun erroneously front-paged: "Foreign Crime Rises Again, Six-Fold in Ten Years" during a similar press fanfare.

It has an impact. Authorities wonder what to do about these record-high numbers of foreign residents and the crimes they commit.

Past reactions have been quite creative.

On April 9, 2000, Tokyo Governor Ishihara urged the Nerima Self Defense Forces, in the event of an earthquake, to round up illegal foreigners in case they unprecedentedly riot. He did not clarify how to determine an illegal foreigner on sight.

Governor Ishihara's May 8, 2001 Sankei Shimbun essay connected Chinese DNA with criminal tendencies, and alleged that even the Yakuza are scared of foreign-occupied zones.

On February 27, 2002, Kabukichou, with Japan's highest working concentration of foreigners, switched on fifty 24-hour police surveillance cameras. Though Kabukichou's crime rate is indubitably above average, cursory strolls around this pleasuredome never demonstrated any clear or present danger.

Miwa Locks, Japan's best-selling locksmith, advertised in the February 25, 2000 issue of Shuukan Asahi their new foreigner-proof security.

And a 1992 Japanese cop movie, "Heavenly Sins" (Tengoku no Taizai), offered this forensics gem: "Too horrible a murder for a Japanese to commit. Musta been a foreigner."

I understand the Japanese police are just trying to do their job. Maintain public safety and all that. However, in doing so they send the wrong signals.

The Mainichi reported on February 22, 2001 that Nagano banks and government offices displayed prefectural police notices about foreign moneysnatchers. The article also mentioned December 2000 Tokyo Metropolitan Police flyers: call the police if you hear someone speaking Chinese.

In February 2000, the Shizuoka Police Department distributed to shopkeeps a handbook entitled "Characteristic Crimes by Foreigners Coming to Japan". It offers enlightening hints on dealing with local Brazilian and Peruvian customers. Pages 20-21: if a "group" of "two to four" foreigners park outside your store, "write down their licence plate and report it to the police". (www.debito.org: Links Page for Japan Times Zeit Gist Article)

Thus enlisting the public in racial profiling creates misunderstandings. The most famous case was in Hamamatsu, when a jewelry store ejected a Brazilian woman named Ana Bortz. The shopkeep found himself losing an anti-discrimination lawsuit in 1999.

Ms Bortz was lucky. Foreigners arrested on circumstantial evidence, such as parking near a crime scene, may be in dire straits. Japanese police investigations can legally deny suspects access to a lawyer or a consulate for two days, plus detain them an additional 21 days if a judge approves. As the US State Department last year reported "credible" cases of physical and psychological abuse, accidental arrest in Japan is no joke.

But let's return to the crime stats. No space here to question specific data (save the inflation of crime by including "visa violations"--which only foreigners can commit), so I'll focus on the science involved.

One reason for the statistical rise is the sampling process.

If police choose to target foreigners, the number of foreigners arrested will rise. Likewise if every Japanese is, say, stopped on a bicycle on suspicion of theft, more Japanese criminals will appear. Unfortunately, as I reported here last June about the Yasukuni Doori bike cops, foreigners are easier to pick out.

With the daily reports of Japanese committing patricide, matricide, and infanticide, not to mention the omnipresent biker gangs ruining many a night's sleep, police should try to maintain a balance. Temper their reports with comparisons to rising Japanese crime.

The media should at least acknowledge a statistical fact of the sample: The foreign population is growing while the Japanese one is not. More foreigners present means more foreigners who can commit crime. In actuality, some foreign crimes, both as an absolute and as a proportion of the total population, have fallen.

But reporting that would go against the sociology of crime. If the Japanese crime rate is reported as rising--which it is--the police will be seen as not doing their job. If the foreign rate reportedly rises, then more blame falls on the bad guests, who shouldn't be here making trouble anyway.

Not to mention that anticipating unpredictable foreign criminal behavior (visible in the overreaction to hooligans in Sapporo during the World Cup) helps police budgets grow.

This must stop. With Japan's aging society and groaning tax base, both the UN and a Prime Minister's commission reported in 2000 that Japan needs immigration.

Attracting and assimilating immigrants would be much easier if police stop fearmongering. Afford residents equal protection of the law. Not unequal application and reporting.

813 words

(A different version--updated with the Nakano Police information--of this article was published in the Japan Times, October 4, 2002 in the Zeit Gist column:

Foreigner crime stats cover up a real cop-out

The title is good, but I like my version of the article better--especially because the vital paragraph about "the sociology of crime" in Japan, was edited out. Pity. Also, the editor did not run the revised version of the article by me before publication, which is also a pity.)

Arudou Debito
(Links to substantiation for all claims in my article may be found at
www.debito.org: Links Page for Japan Times Zeit Gist Article)
The way the Japanese tend to deny anything wrong happening in their country is one of the things that I find so interesting about them. In many ways they are so different from western culture. I find it all very fascinating.
True, but are the Japanese the only country that does so?

I found out that they just express the problems the in a different way. David Spectre and other foreigns have made themselves a name by being the ones who rain complaints on the country, the Japanese in turn allow this happen since they themselves can't do it.
On november 20 in the Japan times there was another prime example of the blame the gaijin for the crime game. It seems that the government has finally figured out that we are not comiting all of the crimes and are instead blaming foreigners for being criminal "models" for the Japanese. Yeah like no Japanese person had ever commited murder before some hairy gaijin came along and showed them how.
I was just watching the NHK news today about Tokyo Governor Ishihara appointing the former head of the Hiroshima police as his new vice governor in order to handle Tokyo's growing crime rate. Tokyo's serious crime rate, that of murders and robberies hit a new record last year, so he brought this outsider in to 'clean up the nation's capital." What is his big plan to make the streets safe? He says it includes 3 main policies,

1) crack down harder on illegal immigrants.

2) Install more security cameras in public places.

3) Have city bureacrats work directly for the police to free up officers time so they can be out on the streets.

Sound like a winning plan? I mean, if he gets rid of all the foreigners in Japan that'll take care of almost 1% of the crime. Visa violations are a serious offense after all, think of all the hurt feelings at the ministry of immigration when they find out people are just ignoring the rules. Disgusting.

Additionally, security cameras certainly are effective at dettering murderers and armed robbers from commiting crime, they hate wearing masks and stuff to hide their identity.

Those measures, combined with more cops on the beat directing traffic at deserted intersections will certainly have the criminal elements in Japanese society on the run. Mr. Ishihara is to be applauded for coming up with such rational proposals to improve our safety.
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