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Yakuza membership continues fall: NPA

TOKYO (TR) – The National Police Agency said on Thursday that membership in yakuza criminal syndicates dropped to a record-low 30,500 last year amid crackdowns on their operations, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 28).

According to the NPA, the figure, which includes regular members and quasi-members, fell from 34,500 in 2016. The figure for 2017, which represents the 14th consecutive decline, is one sixth the total from 1963, when gang membership peaked.

In breaking down the data, there were 15,600 regular members, a drop of 1,200 over the year before. Meanwhile, the number of quasi-members, who operate with full-timers, dropped by 2,800 to 14,900 over the same period.

By syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi stood at the top with 9,500 members at the end of 2018. The Sumiyoshi-kai (4,900) and  Inagawa-kai (3,700) ranked second and third, respectively. The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi was fourth with 3,400 members.

“With efforts underway to exclude gangs, members are voluntarily leaving because it is difficult to fund operations,” a representative of the NPA was quoted.

Yoshinori Oda of the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi
Yoshinori Oda of the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi

Troublesome trio

In April of 2017, the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi (now with 770 members) formed after key affiliate gangs broke off ties with the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which itself formed following the dissolution of the Yamaguchi-gumi in 2015.

Last year, police recorded 11 incidents that were attributed to an ongoing dispute between the three gangs. Since the split in 2015, there have been a total of 116 incidents.

“At present, tensions are still high, with the potential for conflict smoldering,” an NPA representative said.