Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Crime in Japan Falls to Lowest Level in More Than 70 Years

Updated on

Crime in Japan is dropping amid the longest economic expansion in almost three decades, making one of the safest nations even safer.

The number of recorded crimes fell to 915,042 last year, the lowest level in the postwar era, according to data released by the National Police Agency earlier this month. That came as the nation’s economy had its longest run of sustained growth in almost 30 years, which drove the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent.

Crimes Go Down With Recovery

Source: Japan's National Policy Agency, Statistics Bureau

“The economic recovery is helping crimes go down,” said Akiyoshi Takumori, chief economist at Sumitomo Mitusi Asset Management Co. “The need to steal goes down when you have a secure job.”

Major Crimes Declining

Source: Japan's National Police Agency

There may be other factors for the drop in crime - closer coordination between local volunteers and the police, and the wider use of surveillance cameras have helped prevention, according to the National Police Agency.

But it’s not just the reduction in crime that’s making people feel safer.

Fewer Suicides

Decline continues even through the global financial crisis and and 2011's earthquake & tsunami

Source: Japan's National Police Agency

Suicides are at their lowest level since 1991, and odds of getting back lost money are rising in Tokyo.

A Friendlier Place

Source: Japan Cabinet Office, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept

Note: Cabinet Office has only surveyed for safety 4 times since 2004. Wallet data shows the ratio of the value of money reported lost to reported found.

Still, it’s not rosy everywhere. Masayuki Kiriu, a professor of social psychology at Toyo University in Tokyo, said the forms of crime may be changing. Instead of robbing a safe or bank, criminals are trying to take advantage of the increasing number of old people, who generally have more financial assets.

There’s been an increase in so-called "grandparent scams," in which a criminal calls an elderly person, pretends to be a relative (often a child or a grandchild) in distress, and asks for money.

Rising Scams

More criminals swindling the elderly

Source: Japan's National Police Agency

“Those who commit crimes figure a bank robbery doesn’t make sense considering the costs and benefits," said Kiriu, who used to work at a national research institute for police science. "They are acting rationally in their view.”

— With assistance by Emi Urabe

(Updates to add second chart.)
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