Kirk Masden on NJ crime down for three years, yet not discussed in media.


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Hi Blog. Word from Kirk Masden from The Community, writing on a topic of import. Quoting in full, comment follows:

Dear friends, I was interested in Debito’s latest Newsletter. In it, he introduces another fear-mongering article in the Sankei:

3) Sankei: manual to help NJ “illegal overstays” evade police
— snip —

This article, in turn, refers briefly to the Sankei’s history of exaggerating the rise in “foreign crime”:

Well, that reminded me of something I found in doing my class preparation for my annual lecture on “foreign crime” statistics (as in “lies, damn lies, and statistics” 101): non-Japanese crime numbers are substantially down for three years in a row (four, depending on how you count them) — despite increasing population!!

See the statistics for yourself (in Japanese pdf files):


Interesting, isn’t it, that this hasn’t been discussed much in the press!

Kirk Masden, writing for The Community

COMMENT: Quite. If crime had gone up, if history is any guide, you definitely would have heard about it.  Instead, we get biased articles like the one in the Mainichi headlining that NJ crime fell in English, yet rose in Japanese. The impact, as they admit, is different. So is zeroing in on them for being “unmannerly” and spoiling it for everyone.  Who’s spoiling it for whom?  

If you can’t say something nice…  say it in print, I guess.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

13 comments on “Kirk Masden on NJ crime down for three years, yet not discussed in media.

  • While I too agree that the “gaijin crime wave” is a myth, and that generally, we commit crime at the same or lower rate than the Japanese themselves, isn’t the graph above and explanation misleading?

    The last 2 columns seem to be for half-years? As in the first half of Heisei 19 and 20? Thus the drop by about half from the immediately previous (third from right) column which is Heisei 19 in total? So crime is down 2 years in a row, not 4.

    But the police statistics have always left my wondering, since the statistics used for all the “crime” stats in the press are the readily avialable “number of arrests” or the undefined “number of clearances” [what does that mean anyway?]

    But surely this is not equal to the number of actual crimes. One would expect that arrest rates are already baised against gaijin, in that the J cops are probably more likely to seek out and arrest a foreigner, and locals are more likely to report a crime by a foreigner [or even describe a Japanese criminal AS a foreigner, i.e. the case last year(?) of the full-helmet wearing shotgun murder in that sports club]. Further a Japanese might be better able to talk his way out of an arrest or just simply blend in with the crowd, and upon shedding whatever clothes he worse during the crime, become totally anonymous. Gaijin can’t shed their skin.

    Is there any source of actual court conviction data? [Of course, then again, we would have a bias against gaijin inflating the numbers]

    Bottom line, even with the biases against foreigners within the “justice” system, we still are in no way more prone to crime than the locals. Take out the visa crime numbers [which are impossible for Japanese to commit, thus not a fair comparison] and we become even less “criminal”. Without the systemic and statistical bias, we would probably be FAR “safer” than Japanese themselves.

    Hate to bring up race, but since the J police insist on dividing up the data of foreign crime by country, people from English-speaking countries are already FAR less likely to commit crime than a Japanese. Congrats! 😉

    Did I mention how it is also just a BIT insulting that the J police only see it necessary to single out 2 groups for special statistical analysis in their crime figures? Bouryokudantai [gangs] and rainichigaikokujin [foreigners], and I’m sure at some point in editing the document, someone had to insert the “koku” in gaikokujin.
    No special reports on youth crime, senior crime, white collar crime, crime by former police or government officals [would love to see that]

    Regarding need for vigilance “bouryokudantai = rainichigai[koku]jin” in their eyes. We are as “bad” as yakuza, heck probably worse to them, since we don’t pay bribes. 😉

  • Oops, my bad, the dotted line for general crime IS going down for 4 years. The J cops don’t have very good graph-making skills. Ever heard of y-axis labels? Please ignore the first part of my previous post.

  • Well obviously. Since they started cracking down on foreign crime 4 years ago it’s been working! Now they need everyone to stay vigilant and continue cracking down to ensure foreign crime doesn’t skyrocket again especially now that all the nikkei are out of work…

  • This is because they are holding their purses even tighter these days as I walk by.

    I pay the taxes that help support the military that mans the planes and sits diligent on ships in the bay. That puts America’s skin in the game, so to speak.

    While Tamogami-san writes away and the sons of war criminals hang out at the shrine.

    Keep the xenophobia up and watch it go down more . . .

  • I’d like to repond to Jerry’s point about the decline being the result of a crackdown. This is not clear at all. At the very least, the decline in crime among non-Japanese is a phenomenon that parallels the decline of crime throughout Japan. Unless there has been a crackdown on all crime that was significant enough to explain a huge decline, we have to look for another explanation. Frankly, I can’t explain it. See the following page for statistics on the overall decline:

  • I picked up this line from Kirk’s site above:

    “The clearest decline is in the number of crimes, solved or not, that have been reported.”

    This sounds more like the police have just ‘cracked down’ on persuading people not to report minor incidents, or a ‘crack down’ on classification of minor crimes to make them non-crimes. Somehow I do not think it is the keystone cops getting their act together.

  • Kirk,

    Maybe there was a change in police procedures, or in the way statistics were recorded?

    Alternatively, it could just be a reflection of the decrease in the population of ‘young adults’ in Japan.

  • Yes, many Japanese friends have related stories of the police trying to persuade people to not bother filing a report. But one could assume they have been following this “I don’t want to do the paperwork” procedure at a constant rate? Why would here be a sudden increase in unreported [or better, reported but not recorded] crime?

    Perhaps there has been a new internal incentive within the justice system? Cities with lower (reported) crime rates get a bonus, or a shiny plaque, or more promotions and thus fatter pensions, or some such thing? Then, individual cops and local captains have a new reason to make sure there is “less” crime. And voila! There is “less” crime.

    But this is all just speculation.

    Who waches the police? Is there ANY way to figure out the rate of unreported crime, or crimes reported by citizens but not recorded by the cops?
    There are probably stats regarding the more extreme case of unreported rape. And Japan would probably deserve a special category for reported but then laughed out of the koban cases of Domestic Violence.

  • Oh, I am certainly certainly aware that effect does not equal cause. But looking at things what has changed? Has there been an increase in the Japanese economy that would help those who weren’t predisposed to criminal activity find other non-criminal activities? Nope. The thought that maybe the aging population is less likely to make the rash decisions of youth – interesting thought and probably would make an excellent study by some grad student.

    So what could be causes? Well I can think of 2 off the top of my head.

    1. fingerprinting discouraging those with criminal records/etc. from entering Japan
    2. increased police pressure

    Obviously just conjecture on my part.

    Now with the economy tanking and so many people who might otherwise not have felt the need to commit criminal acts suddenly becoming unemployed I expect we will see an uptick in crime in the foreign community. Particularly among the less educated nikkei’s who might not have the social safety net others might have.

    The problem, of course, is that foreign crime is, by it’s very nature, preventable crime. Close your border and boot out all the foreigners and it suddenly goes away. In countries with large unprotected borders like the US that might be a problem but a group of islands… Obviously the more determined will find a way but the vast majority could be kept out.

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    It’s reasuring to see the numbers for NJ crime have decreased in recent years. However, I believe that the real suspect numbers are the from H14 (2002) to H18 (2006). It was back in early 2001(?) when overstaying one’s visa was changed to a “serious” crime and lumped in with all the murders, robberies and other felonies. Suddenly there was a huge jump in crimes committed by NJ. I’m not saying that visa overstay shouldn’t be a crime, because it is, but it’s been statistically dishonest to include it with data that in previous years did not contain visa overstays.

    That said, could it be that the drop may be showing that after a few years of cracking down on visa violations a large number of illegals have been caught and deported (and the remaining may be harder to find?) thus leading to a drop in crime rates?

  • Dear Debito,

    In one of my letters to the JT I had suggested that first of all “overstay” is not a crime that can be compared with J by NJ. See it here again. ! In fact there are several other crimes only J people can do, which are not possibly done by NJ and if an NPO starts building those statistics, I am sure the Japanese Government would wake up, and so do people like Mainichi and all…!

  • I am glad to see other teachers have been doing what I have done since 2001 — introduce students to the issue, have them research it, survey them first, and deal with the stereotypes pushed by the media and politicians. I gave a presentation of this topic and original research at SIETAR Japan at Reitaku University in July 2006. I wonder if Mr. Masden was there?


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