Iran criminals in Japan?

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Jun 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/9/99
Crimes by foreigners pose challenge
country, criminals of Chinese origin totaled 2,320, followed by 522

06/09/1999 Daily Yomiuri

Minehiko Oda Yomiuri Shimbun Osaka City News Editor

"Crimes by foreigners have become a frequent occurrence, and the
smuggling of drugs and guns into Japan is on the rise. Foreign crime
syndicates, especially Chinese 'snake heads,' pose a serious threat to
Japan's security."

These were concerns expressed in the National Police Agency's 1998
white paper.

Since March of last year, there have been 20 robberies in wealthy
residential areas of Osaka and Hyogo prefectures in which the
perpetrators--apparently foreigners--tied up residents and made off
with cash and jewelry. The total amount of cash stolen came to about 50
million yen, while the jewelry had a value of 150 million yen.

Osaka prefectural police are reinforcing efforts to fight such crimes,
while residents are taking steps to avoid being robbed, by having the
walls around their houses made higher, installing security systems or
buying watchdogs.

Among the targets to date have been owners of a restaurant, a pachinko
parlor, a condominium and a real estate agency, as well as a company
executive and the president of a private university. One of the victims
was a famous kabuki actor. Whatever their occupations, there is one
thing the victims had in common: They were all wealthy.

In most of the incidents, two or more men, concealing their faces with
ski masks or stockings, broke into the house before dawn. They
threatened the occupants with knives and iron pipes, and bound them
with adhesive tape or rope. Occasionally, they used handcuffs and
showed their victims a piece of paper bearing the character for "kill."

The most conspicuous point about the culprits was that they spoke
broken Japanese, saying, "Kane (money), kane, kinko (safe), kinko!"
Their pronunciation and physical build indicated that they might have
been from other parts of Asia.

They left few clues as to their identities. No fingerprints were left
at the crime scenes, and apparently none of the jewelry was sold in

Investigators are focusing on the fact that they managed without fail
to select wealthy people as their targets, and suspect that some
Japanese with full knowledge of the neighborhoods helped them. Police
also suspect that the thieves had outside help in procuring the items
needed for committing the crimes and in securing a hideout.

While police have been struggling to identify the robbers, a murder
occurred last month in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, that they believe is
connected with the spate of robberies.

A 66-year-old live-in maid of a company owner was killed in the
incident, with her hands and legs bound with rope and a gag stuffed in
her mouth. Most of the rooms in the luxury home had been ransacked.

"This is a tragedy," a high-ranking police official said, apparently
chagrined over the failure of police to track down the robbers.

The rising number of foreigners in Japan has been paralleled by a rise
in the number of crimes committed by them. According to the white
paper, 5,435 foreigners were arrested on suspicion of having committed
crimes in 1997--a figure 1.8 times higher than that for 1988.

Foreigners are estimated to comprise 1.0 percent of Japan's population
aged 14 or over. But of the total number of convicted criminals, 1.7
percent are foreigners, a statistic that is a cause for concern: From
South Korea, 347 from Brazil, 329 from Vietnam, 315 from the
Philippines, 264 from Peru, 119 from Thailand, 115 from Malaysia, 112
from Russia, 107 from the United States and 103 from Iran , according
to the 1997 NPA white paper.

Police have produced some remarkable results in their fight against
crime as far as Japanese offenders are concerned, which is why Japan is
sometimes dubbed "the safest country in the world." But this reputation
is not as solid as it once was.

Crimes committed by foreigners pose a challenge to police, who lag
behind their counterparts in other industrialized nations in coping
with crime syndicates that operate across national borders.

"There is not a more effective measure against crime than arresting the
culprit," it is commonly said among police. It might be time to coin
another saying: "No one who commits a crime in Japan will be able to
get away with it."

Foreign criminals should not be allowed to harbor the misconception
that Japan is a haven for them. Police must have the wisdom and
determination to fight international crime.

However, one thing should be kept in mind. Although the number of
crimes By foreigners has surged, that does not justify a policy of
exclusivism or imposing stricter conditions on foreigners wishing to
enter or stay in Japan. In addition, it does not give Japanese license
to discriminate against foreigners.

Attitudes of that kind would go against the flow of
internationalization and drive Japan into isolation in the
international community.

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