Japan is not an Exception to a Rule of Moral Panic. No Longer Re-Integrative Society, but Frightened by Phantoms of Increasing Violent Criminals

Koichi Hamai, Ryukoku University

Japan has enjoyed the reputation for being one of the most crime-free economically advanced countries. Crime has never been a political agenda. However, since the late 1990s, with constantly increasing crime rate and dropping clearance rate in police statitics, it appears that the Japanese public has lost confidence in its safety and the effectivness of the criminal justice system. The Japanese press has generally associated the 1990s economic slump with crime through 'the collapse of traditional community-based society'. Also a survey of public attitudes showed that the proportion of the public who thought crime was getting worse had increased from 19% in 1998 to 27% in 2000. In the last general election in 2003, crime prevention has become an important political agenda and major political parties proposed various measures to control crimes, such as installing more cctv and police officers on the streets, longer sentences for offenders such as introducing life sentence without parole and building more prisons in their manifestos. However, in terms of crime statistics, in the late 1990s, there was a series of police scandals in Japan that fundamentally changed the way the press reported policing issues. Such changes provoked key policy changes toward the reporting and recording of Japanese crime. This in turn resulted in a sudden increase in the number of crimes recorded, and a sudden decrease in the clear up rates. The moral panic created by the press coverage of crime statistics appears to have resulted in increasingly punitive public views about offenders and sentencing in Japan.

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Updated 05/20/2006