The Remarkable Decline in Home Burglary Rates in Japan

Photo of Paul McMahon

Paul McMahon

Founder of TokyoDev

I stumbled across an amazing fact. From 2003 to 2022, the number of home burglaries in Japan decreased by a factor of 12! Home burglaries in Japan peaked in 2003, with 190,473 cases in Japan. But as of 2022, where the most recent data is available, they have dropped to a mere 15,692 cases.

This drop was astonishing to me, and so I sought out the reasons behind it. While there isn’t a simple answer, a report by the Ministry of Justice points to several factors such as a lower unemployment rate, an increase in crime prevention volunteers, and higher building security standards.

The connection with the unemployment rate is obvious. According to Japanese crime statistics, unemployed people are disproportionately likely to commit burglary, car/vehicle theft, and pickpocketing. Just as the home burglary rate was spiking in the early 2000s, so too was the unemployment rate.

Chart showing home burglaries vs unemployment rate

But the unemployment rate alone doesn’t seem to fully explain the drop. For instance, while the financial crisis in 2009 caused the unemployment rate to spike back up, residential burglaries continued to plummet.

Crime prevention volunteer groups also increased dramatically over the last two decades, growing from approximately 180,000 members in 2003 to 2.34 million in 2007.

Chart showing home burglaries vs crime prevention group members

This was in response to the “Action plan for the realization of a crime-resistant society” created by the Japanese government, which sought not only to prevent crime on a national level, but also in each local community through encouraging more people to volunteer, increasing police patrols, and building stronger relationships with neighbors. These efforts have been explored in Crime prevention in Japan orchestration, representation and impact of a volunteering boom.

As crime was peaking, several organizations came together to establish the “Public-private joint conference on the development and dissemination of building components with high security performance” in 2002. This organization analyzed residential burglaries, discussed the security standard of building components to prevent break-ins, and tested the security performance of components. Based on their test report, they identified 15 types of building components that had an actual effect on security, such as making a break in take longer than five minutes.

This downward trend of home burglaries may finally be coming to an end. In 2022, for the first time in the last two decades, the overall number of reported crimes increased to 601,331 cases, reflecting a 5.9% increase from 2021. While residential burglaries had declined over the same year, there is not much room for them to decrease any further. Whether the burglary rate stabilizes at its current level or reverses, only time will tell.

More about the author

Photo of Paul McMahon

Paul McMahon

Founder of TokyoDev

Paul is a Canadian software developer who has been living in Japan since 2006. Since 2011 he’s been helping other developers start and grow their careers in Japan through TokyoDev.

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