Normally when you think of crime, you think about young people. You know, those damn teenagers with their loud music writing graffiti and getting in fights and that sort of thing.
That perception might be changing in Japan. It turns out that the elderly, more than the young, are committing more and more crimes each year.
Over the last couple of months I’ve written about old men attacking people with swords not once but twice! I thought that these two incidents were weird, isolated attacks but apparently, they might be a sign of a bigger problem in Japan right now.
Japan’s Aging Population
It’s not too surprising that old people are committing more and more crimes when you consider that Japan’s population is aging.
Every year, the elderly make up a bigger and bigger percentage of Japan’s population. It’s a fact that’s become hard to ignore and has quickly turned into Japan’s greatest demographic issue.
There are a few key reasons why there are more old people in Japan than ever before. Fewer and fewer Japanese people are getting married and as a result, the birthrate has all but flatlined. Fewer births mean fewer young people, meaning that the elderly take up a bigger chunk of the population.
Japan’s births have plummeted.
As the elderly have reached a record 23% of Japan’s total population, the graying of Japan has had lots of obvious implications: schools are getting emptier and nursing homes are filling up as the balance shifts from young to old.
But a rise in crime is a strange, unexpected side effect.
The two old Japanese men attacking people with swords were just a taste of what old Japanese criminals are up to.
The Wall Street Journal ran a story earlier this week about an 80-year-old man who’s been arrested for killing his wife and stuffing her in a freezer. While it might seem crazy that such an old man would be capable of such an evil things, he’s not the only one, and not by a long shot.
Don’t let their adorable looks fool you; these two can be dangerous.
Even though the murder rate in Japan has gone down over the last decade, the number of elderly murderers has gone up. It doesn’t stop there, though: crime among the elderly has doubled over the last decade.
The Wall Street Journal explains:
Assault-related crimes paint a more vivid picture, jumping more than 570% to 2,337 offenses in 2010 compared with just 348 in 2002.
But theft has been the most prevalent. Robberies make up about 70% of the crimes committed by the elderly.
It’s easy to speculate just why crime has gone up so much among the elderly, but ultimately it’s hard to say for sure. Some people speculate that it’s simply because there are so many elderly people that crime was bound to go up. Others say that the elderly aren’t getting the care nor attention they deserve.
Again though, nobody really knows. Maybe the elderly are just feeling especially rebellious!
While the whole situation might seem a little strange, this is the reality of 21st century Japan.
Header image by ku_photodigital