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NPA: Yakuza membership drops below 40,000 for first time

Shinobu Tsukasa
The membership in the Yamaguchi-gumi, which is headed by Shinobu Tsukasa (above), tumbled from 14,100 to 11,800 between 2016 and the year before

TOKYO (TR) – The National Police Agency on Thursday announced that the number of organized crime members in Japan has fallen to below 40,000 for the first time, reports the Asahi Shimbun (Mar. 16).

The number of gangsters dropped to around 39,100 (18,100 regular members and 20,900 quasi-members) in 2016, a decline of 7,800 over the year before. The figure is the lowest since statistics began being kept in 1958 and a fraction of its peak (180,000) recorded in 1963.

Police credited anti-gang legislation that was enacted nationwide in October of 2010 with the decline in membership. The legislation restricts regular citizens from facilitating the money-making activities of crime groups.

Membership in Japan’s largest gang, the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, tumbled from around 14,100 to 11,800. Meanwhile, membership in the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi dropped from approximately 6,100 to 5,500. The gang ranks third in Japan, trailing behind the Tokyo-based Sumiyoshi-kai.

The number of arrests of gang members fell by 1,593 to 20,050. One of the most notable crimes was the quick-strike theft of nearly two billion yen from convenience store ATMs nationwide, a case that has resulted in multiple arrests of gang members.

A downside revealed by the NPA was the large number of retired gangsters who have gone on to be arrested in crimes. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of such arrests totaled 9,195. Of those suspects, 2,660 were arrested within two years of retirement. In many cases, the suspects were accused of theft.

“There is a tendency for one to be reduced to a life of crime,” an NPA official is quoted. “Therefore, it is necessary to provide support in [legitimate] employment for those who have broken away.”