Tue, 30 Sep 2003

Organized crime threatens Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo

This year's white paper on police featured the current situation of worsening organized crime and the problems involved. Presumably reflecting the police's sense of crisis, the white paper's contents were extraordinary -- it appeared not to care about discrediting the police and revealing their weaknesses.

Organized crimes by foreign groups are rapidly increasing. They include criminal groups from Shanghai and Fujian Province in China, gangs of pickpockets from South Korea, groups of thieves from Colombia and drug smuggling organizations from Iran.

Rumor has it that Japan is a haven for crime, according to the white paper ... people can get a large amount of money in a short time and even if they are arrested, they will only be given a suspended sentence as long as it is their first arrest.

Even if ill-intentioned foreigners are deported, they come back with fake passports. Japan must set up a system to make such foreigners aware that Japan's security system is strict and that Japanese investigators are tough.

In addition, criminal syndicates here are increasingly heavily armed and investigators complain that it has become more difficult to determine their actual workings and activities. They also complain that mobsters have become more resourceful in raising funds.

Smuggling and illicit sales of guns and drugs are typical examples of organized crimes. Although the number of shooting incidents is increasing, only a few gun smuggling plots are foiled on shorelines each year and the number of seized guns has been decreasing for the last seven years.

According to the white paper, the number of investigators capable of obtaining key information is decreasing and suspects often keep silent out of fear of retaliation.

The white paper called for the consideration of new investigation methods. Police must consider introducing a new system as soon as possible, borrowing from U.S. and European legal systems.

Three years after the enactment of the Wiretapping Authorization Law, wiretaps were conducted in only two cases last year. This number is too small compared with the 1,491 wiretaps recorded in the United States in 2001. This is because restrictions on the law, which authorizes wiretaps in investigations of organized crimes, are extremely stringent. The introduction of a law is meaningless if it is designed not to be effective.

The white paper also pointed to the international community's concerns about the possible integration of criminal syndicates and terrorist organizations. It also referred to North Korean state crimes such as stimulant drug smuggling.

It will be necessary to thoroughly examine security measures and strengthen the functions of security-related organizations to overcome the current crisis.