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Sad reason crime rates in the elderly are rising in Japan

Sad reason crime rates in the elderly are rising in Japan

Japan has registered a surge in crime rates among the elderly who face financial struggles and isolation.

Japan has been experiencing a spike in crime rates among the elderly, and the reason may surprise you.

In 2019, the BBC reported on a senior crime wave, noting offenders over the age of 65 in Japan have been increasing steadily over the last two decades.

In 1997, the over-65s accounted for one in 20 convictions, but that number has grown to more than one in five 20 years later.

Interestingly, most of these are repeat offenders, with over a third of the 2,500 over-65s convicted in 2016 having had more than five previous convictions.

An elderly prison in Japan's Onomichi prison.
jeremy sutton-hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo

The reason for this surge in petty crimes among the elderly is linked to the cost of living and the lack of a support system for senior citizens.

Some resort to minor offences to secure a few months in prison, where they will be taken care of without burdening their families.

For them, being behind bars is preferable to struggling financially, especially as many older people live on their meagre pensions alone.

Not to mention that some are isolated from their loved ones or don't have anyone who could help them, and being in prison with others may provide them with the company they long for.

"I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me - perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail," then-69-year-old Toshio Takata told BBC News.

"So I took a bicycle and rode it to the police station and told the guy there: 'Look, I took this.'"

That first offence earned Toshio one year in prison.

Toshio Takata stole a bike to get himself sent to prison.

After serving his sentence, the man committed a second crime, pretending to threaten women with a knife. He intended no harm, he assured, but did so in the hope someone would call the police on him and get him a few more months of stability.

"I went to a park and just threatened them. I wasn't intending to do any harm. I just showed the knife to them hoping one of them would call the police. One did," Toshio recalled.

To these first offences followed others, with the pensioner spending eight years in and out the Japanese prisons like a seasoned criminal.

"It's not that I like it but I can stay there for free," he explained.

"And when I get out I have saved some money. So it is not that painful."

Some pensioners feel they're better off in prison than the outside world.
jeremy sutton-hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo

Toshio isn't alone, as a 69-year-old woman confirmed in a video interview with Vice published in 2019.

As many others, she was struggling to make ends meet.

"Even if I worked my hardest, I couldn't catch up financially," she explained.

Imprisoned for shoplifting, the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, served a one-year sentence and often took care of older inmates.

"There were many senior citizens in prison with me," she explained, adding that some were in their 80s and 90s and in poor health.

Featured Image Credit: imtmphoto / Alamy Stock Photo / BBC

Topics: Japan