Japan's Crime Gangs Went Where, Exactly?

Police say yakuza membership is declining due to stricter laws
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 4:40 PM CDT
Updated Mar 10, 2014 5:40 PM CDT
Japan's Crime Gangs Went Where, Exactly?

Japan's underworld crime syndicates, or yakuza, have apparently dwindled over the years, raising the question of where they've gone and why they dropped out of sight, the Daily Beast reports. Police say stricter laws have pressured yakuza members out of the business, by empowering financial institutions to punish known criminals and making yakuza bosses responsible for damages caused by underlings. "I couldn’t get insurance, have a bank account, or join a sports gym," said a mid-level member. "It was like being a non-person. My girlfriend dumped me. ... I got out."

If yakuza membership really did peak in 1963 with 184,100 members, and plummet to 70,300 in 2011, as police say, where did they all go? Possibly underground as unofficial members, or into mainstream businesses like entertainment, sports, construction, and politics, says a crime detective. Or maybe the yakuza's decline has been exaggerated by officials (organized crime is certainly alive in Kyushu, where gang wars are still raging, the Japan Times reports). Oddly, Japanese mafia are tracked and controlled by authorities, not outlawed, so yakuza groups have their own forts, business cards, fan magazines, and corporate logos. Click for the full article. (Read more Yakuza stories.)

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