Police in Japan are remarkably reactive and don't spend much time or energy working on crime prevention. Besides stopping the occasional cyclist and verifying ownership of said bicycle, offering directions or taking a spin on their scooters, they remain very low-key, but they are a constant presence. The officers are largely relegated to their small community police boxes that are centrally located close to train stations all over the country. The policing approach has been one that is based on police officers maintaining a visible presence. “Patrols are the most important duty for community police officers in that the visible presence of police officers in their uniforms prevents crimes and gives community residents sense of security.” (1)
This type of policing is often a proactive approach, but the general disregard for blatant warning signs and growing unease has led to citizens in Japan, calling for an increased effort to stamp out the causes of crime.
The National Police Agency announced this week that they are enacting a set of regulations based on prevention of crime. The service is committing itself to the documentation of all tips, inquires and consultations. The move comes on the heals of public complaints over the way police officers handle tips from citizens. According to reports, the police had failed to follow-up on tips offered before crimes were committed.
“At present, some police officers do not leave documented records when people come in to report potential crimes, saying the reported incident didn't yet constitute a crime or that the matter was outside their jurisdiction.” (2)
This documentation initiative is a welcome step in community safety, and can only help one of the world's safest nations. If the strategy is adhered to and implemented effectively then the result will likely slightly lower an already low crime rate. It is a step in the right direction and should be followed with more moves towards an increased focus on crime prevention and a pro-active focus.
In many regards, the institution of policing in Japan is not focused on the study of criminology and addressing the underlying issues of crime. The nation is still under the guise of the evil foreigner committing all the crimes.
This is largely apparent in recent reporting on the hit-and-run case in Nagoya, involving suspects carrying Brazilian citizenship when headlines such as “3rd Brazilian arrested over fatal hit-and-run in Nagoya” and “Brazilian arrested over deadly hit-and-run in Nagoya,” were splashed everywhere in the Japanese media. The fact that the suspects were Brazilian had little to do with the story, but soon became the central issue. Only the latest example, where crime perpetrated by foreign residents in Japan is held out as the norm and throughly reported by the Japanese media.
Until Japanese society can begin to wrap its collective head around the fact that Japanese citizens commit the majority of crimes and that foreign citizens commit, per capita less crime than the domestic population, there is no sense in studying crime prevention techniques. Occasionally a foreign citizen will be apprehended and convicted of a crime, allowing the domestic population to breathe easy; “Oh another foreigner convicted, the crime rate is rising due to their transgressions.”
Under the new system all interactions with officers will be documented, no matter how minor, and they will be passed on to the relevant section so that it can be handled in an appropriate manner. Police chiefs will be in charge of enforcing the new measure, and if Japanese bureaucratic systems are any example, the new regulations will be religiously followed in every regard. The fact that the National Police Agency is at least paying lip-service to the issue and making small steps in the right direction is to be commended.