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NPA: Yakuza membership down for 15th straight year

TOKYO (TR) – Membership in Japanese criminal syndicates fell for the 15th straight year in 2019, the National Police Agency said last week, reports the Asahi Shimbun (Apr. 2).

On April 2, the NPA said membership in such syndicates totaled 28,200 at the end of last year, a figure that is down by 2,300 over the year before.

“The factors behind the decrease [in membership] are laws that seek to eliminate the gangs themselves and crackdowns on their money-making activities,” an NPA official said.

In breaking down the total, there were 14,400 full-time members, a decrease of 1,200 over the year before. The number of associate members dropped 1,100 to 13,800.

Shinobu Tsukasa of the Yamaguchi-gumi
Shinobu Tsukasa of the Yamaguchi-gumi, whose membership totaled 8,900 in 2019 (Twitter)

Peaked in 1963

Gang membership reached a peak of 184,100 in 1963. The enactment of the Anti-Organized Crime Law in 1992 has contributed to a general downturn in recent decades. The last year that total membership increased was 2004, when the total number stood at 87,000.

By gang, the Yamaguchi-gumi remained the largest with 8,900 members in 2019. Ranking second and third were the Sumiyoshi-kai (4,500) the Inagawa-kai (3,400).

In 2015, Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi formed following a splintering of the Yamaguchi-gumi. Last year, membership totaled 3,000.

Meanwhile, the Kizuna-kai, once known as the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi (itself an offshoot of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi) had 610 members.

According to the NPA, other crime groups appear to be on the rise. Among them are those dubbed hangure, an amalgamation of han (half) and gureru (to be delinquent), and so-called “quasi-yakuza” groups, which include bosozoku biker gangs.