Japan’s crime rate hits postwar low, but report shows rise in child abuse, domestic violence and offenses by the elderly

The transition from Heisei to Reiwa came at a relatively peaceful time, with the nation’s crime rate falling to a postwar low in 2018, an annual white paper released Friday by the Justice Ministry has shown.

But the paper also said the 30-year Heisei Era saw a rise in domestic violence, child abuse and — amid a rapidly graying population — crime by the elderly.

The total number of criminal acts committed in 2018 dropped to 817,338, declining for the 16th consecutive year. The figure is roughly a quarter of the number logged in the peak year of 2002, the report said.

The statistics summarizing crime trends in the Heisei Era, which ran from Jan. 8, 1989 through April 30, 2019, were released as a special edition of the white paper.

Officials said the total number of violations in 2018, including reckless driving, amounted to some 1.23 million, compared with 1.67 million in 1989. The number steadily rose until 2002, when it peaked at 2.79 million.

But despite the overall decrease in crime, statistics show an increase in domestic violence targeting spouses since 1999, with the number of people apprehended for such allegations totaling 8,229 in 2018. The figure was nearly 12 times higher than in 1989.

Moreover, the report said the problem of child abuse has grown since 2014, with high-profile fatalities coming to light in recent years. The number of people arrested over child abuse stood at 1,149 in 2018, rising from 242 in 1989.

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