Japan’s National Police Agency claims a success in the fight against the country’s organized crime element, better known as the Yakuza: its membership is declining rapidly. On Thursday, officers announced that by the end of last year all of Japan’s Yakuza groups comprised a total of 39,100 gangsters.
That number is down significantly from the one when authorities first began counting Yakuza members. “The Tokyo Metropolitan Police estimated that in 1958 there were 70,000 yakuza in the whole of Japan; five years later the number had swelled to 184,000, more men than in Japan’s entire army that year,” authors David Kaplan and Alec Dubro wrote in Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld.
Membership has been declining for several years now. “Mobs are losing further strength, as the spread of anti-organized crime legislation, ordinances and movements, as well as police crackdowns, are making it increasingly difficult for them to earn money,” a police official said.
The Yamaguchi-gumi has long been – and remains - Japan’s biggest crime group, but since its internecine war divided the clan into two, it too has seen a decline in membership. The Yamaguchi-gumi lost 2,300 members since 2015 and was at 11,800 people last year. While the breakaway clan, known as the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, was at 5,500 members in 2016, down 600 from the previous year.
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