Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Gaijin Crime Has Dropped off Governor Ishihara’s Radar Screen

Have any of you been wondering why we’re hearing so little lately from Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara about gaijin criminals and undesirable sangokujin? Look no further than his trip to Beijing to attend the opening ceremonies.

Yes, it certainly helps that violent crime committed by gaijin has been dropping precipitously from its 2004 peak at 345 to 270 in 2007 (though murders committed by gaijin have remained relatively stable, going from 40 to 41 during that same period*). But where Mr. Ishihara is concerned, I’m sure that his reticence has far more to do with what he hopes will be his last great act as Governor, Tokyo’s candidacy for the 2016 Olympics**.

So my advice to you, MTC if you want some peace and quiet for the next eight years is to pray to your god or whatever moves you for Tokyo to prevail. You don’t want an angry Mr. Ishihara hunting for gaijin scalp.

* Media-wise, the number of murders is less relevant than the number of Japanese victims. Gaijin-on-gaijin crime will not attract much attention unless it is part of a larger pattern involving, say, a turf fight between Iranian drug-dealer groups. This has nothing to do with racism; witness the near-absolute US indifference to Iraqi casualties over the last five years.

** The official website is available in English, Chinese (national Olympic Committees: China, Hong Kong, Singapore) and Korean (…North and South Korea), but not in Arabic (…Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Jordan…), French (…France, Belgium, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire…) or Spanish (…Spain, Mexico, Argentina…), three other languages that would be widely appreciated. Too late to drop Chinese and Korean, but someone should alert Mr. Ishihara.

Incidentally, I found this old article on gaijin crime while I was searching for data on this issue. To quote:

Over the past two decades, crimes committed by foreigners have never exceeded about 4% of all crime in Japan, and typically the yearly average has been between 2% and 3%. Foreigners currently make up just over 1% of Japan's total population, so they are only slightly over-represented in the figures. Despite this, the police, lawmakers and the media have focused on foreign crime as if it were one of the most serious issues facing Japan. For example, five of the 16 annual Police White Paper policy reports published between 1987 and 2003 took crimes committed by foreigners as their main theme.

Double, triple the overall crime rate? Sounds pretty high to me. Actually, much if not most of it should be explained away by the different demographics. Still, this is sloppy scholarship. More deceptively, yes, Police White Papers during this period did take up gaijin crime several times—as one of a dozen or so topics, not “main theme”, each year.

Intellectual fraud, or honest mistake? I report, you decide.


Anonymous said...

I've heard that the majority of the crime committed by foreigners is visa status related, and once those stats are removed from the numbers (as the same crime cannot be committed by a Japanese citizen) foreigners are no more likely to commit crime then a Japanese citizen. Have you heard or read of anything similar along those lines?

Jan Moren said...

There is a subset of foreigners (well represented by Japan Times) that has taking umbrage as hobby or all-consuming interest. They're up in arms over having to be fingerprinted on entry to Japan (but silent on the same request in the US); they take great offence at the term "gaijin" (there are probably letters to the editor being written at this very moment about your use of the term, never mind the warm cuddlyness over "alien"); and yes, they tend to overstate and exaggerate in order to get their point across. I'd go for something close to fraud than mistake, but mostly chalk it up as rhetorical sleight of hand.

That said, the by far most common crime by foreigners in Japan is visa violations. Overstaying your visa; having a job not covered by your visa type; not reporting change of address, marital status or place of employment in a timely manner (I was very close to missing this one myself); not having the right re-entry permit bought beforehand - there's many ways you can break the conditions of your visa and they all count as criminal acts even if the actual sanction is limited to a suffering look and a serious talking to about the importance of following rules precisely.

If you limit statistics to property and violent crimes (which is what people are concerned about), foreigner crime rate is apparently no higher than for the native population; one source claimed that adjusted for age and sex the overall rate is slightly lower. And while Japan Times and company overstate things rather a lot, Ishihara and his chief of police have had rather a tendency to use foreigners as an all-purpose club to beat the electorate in line.

Michael Reimer said...

I suppose that "crimes committed by foreigners" means "criminal convictions of foreigners", not quite the same thing. Anyone have numbers for conviction rates among gaijin vs native residents?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. The crime stats most often cited are the stats put out by the national police, which are actually only stats of ARRESTS.

I always assume that those stats are baised, as J cops love to arrest gaijin, and even if they are later released or found not-guilty, they are still part of the "crime" stats, even when there was no actual crime.

Can't we assume that gaijin are more likely to be arrested than Japanese? How many anecdotes are there of gaijin vs. Japanese in a bar fight yielding an arrest for the gaijin and none for the Japanese? How many cases of Japanese atariya [con artists who deliberately get themselves "hit", by cars, bicycles, etc. , basically by just slapping the vehicle with their hand as it goes by, so they can extract money from the driver as an "apology" and walk away without a scratch] being lent more credence by the racist J cops than the gaijin victim?

I've even heard a friend of a friend (a gaijin) who got attacked by some Japanese drunkard in a convenience store, the staff called the cops, the racist J cops show up and slap the cuffs on the gaijin victim (thinking that only gaijin are violent criminals), luckily when the convenience store staff explained the situation, they removed the cuffs from the gaijin victim and arrested the Japanese attacker. If there hadn't been any Japanese witnesses to explain it, this poor guy would've been another statistic, and probably in jail now.

Crime stats show gaijin are arrested for violent crime at a rate proportionate to the population, EVEN THOUGH the racist J cops pay extra special attention to us. I assume that if we all looked Japanese, the rate would be significantly lower.

And a final wamring thought. If a Japanese prosecutor has evidence that proves a defendant innocent, it is perfectly legal for him to hide it. This is a major problem for both Japanese citizens and gaijin.

Jun Okumura said...

My response here, as a new post. Sorry for the inconvenience.