Thursday, November 15, 2007

The safety country

I have long wondered about the repeated, mostly unchallenged claims about Japan's being one of the most (or as some seem to believe) the most crime free country on earth. The later is obviously not true. There is a big problem in comparing crime stats---or most others---country to country. Laws are much different. Conviction rates, investigation methods, the willingness of the police to investigate reported crimes, the relationship between the populace and the police are just a few things that could affect reported crimes.

In the early 90s, the Japan Times had a long article on the police in Japan concerning how the cops would often refuse to take action on criminal complaints. One non-Japanese, who had been assaulted by a shop-owner was told by the cops that if he were in the US, he would have been shot implying that being assaulted by a guy with hedge trimmers wasn't so bad. The shop owner was not charged with any crime. Also in the article, the attitude of the Japanese police toward rape victims was addressed, which was basically the idea that the woman was responsible in some way. (Yes, I know that this is a problem in many countries, but that does not in any way excuse it in Japan. Sorry.) Most of us have seen cops either on TV news shows or in real life being assaulted by people---pushed and shoved. Now in the US, that is a crime and you are gonna be arrested after being introduced to the pavement. Apparently not in Japan. I watched a TV program earlier this year in which the cops were investigating graffiti "artists." With a TV crew in tow, they confronted a group which included a young French guy. When the Japanese guys were shoving and shouting at one group of cops, the French kid was sitting on a short concrete barrier and took out a marker and made a 2" or so mark. Immediately, Tokyo's finest jumped him with the reporter screaming---and I mean SCREAMING---into the mic about the "gaijin" being arrested. The others who would have been arrested for assault, thereby increasing the crime stats in the US, were not arrested in Japan.

The LATimes has an article about this sort of thing, but I cannot get my registration to work on their site, so it can be accessed at Scroll down to LA Times how J Police Ignore...An excerpt:

Police discourage autopsies that might reveal a higher homicide rate in their jurisdiction, and pressure doctors to attribute unnatural deaths to health reasons, usually heart failure, the group alleges.

Odds are, it says, that people are getting away with murder in Japan, a country that officially claims one of the lowest per capita homicide rates in the world… “All the police care about is how they look to people; it’s all PR to show that their capabilities are high,” Saikawa says. “Without autopsies, they can keep their percentage [of solved cases] high. It’s all about numbers.”…

I am very skeptical about most stats, especially Japanese government stats which show how Japan is in some way ahead of, uniquely different than, or better than other countries. Japan is not a crime-filled, dangerous country, especially as far as foreigners are concerned. But I'd bet it ain't as safe as believed and that the most dangerous criminals ain't non-Japanese.

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