The Yomiuri ShimbunA record low of 34,500 people were involved in yakuza crime syndicates nationwide as of the end of 2017, down by 4,600 from the year before, according to the National Police Agency.
This was the lowest figure since the NPA began keeping such statistics in 1958.
The decline appears to have been prompted partly by the enforcement in all prefectures of ordinances aimed at expelling organized crime syndicates, which helped dry up sources of funding for the groups. However, a series of clashes has occurred following the split-up of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza group, prompting police authorities to tighten surveillance.
According to the NPA, there were 16,800 full members of yakuza groups in 2017, down 1,300 from a year earlier. The number of quasi-members, who have close relationships with the crime groups and support their operations, was 17,700, down by 3,200 and falling below the 20,000 level for the first time.
These figures are less than 40 percent of those in 1992, when the Antigang Law was enacted.
By yakuza groups, the sixth Yamaguchi-gumi had the most members with 10,300, followed by the Sumiyoshi-kai with 5,800, the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi with 5,100 and the Inagawa-kai with 4,100. These four groups account for 73.3 percent of the total.
Authorities detected 30,465 criminal cases involving the syndicates, down by 6,215 from the previous year. The number of gangsters arrested or questioned by police was 17,737, down 2,313. However, the number arrested or questioned per 1,000 members was on the rise at 514.1, according to the NPA.
Police detected eight cases related to the conflict between the Yamaguchi-gumi and Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi after their split. “A recruitment war is escalating below the surface, and the chance it may develop into a war still lingers,” an NPA official said.
In April last year, some senior members of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi who opposed its leadership formed the Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi. The Ninkyo group has about 460 members and was designated as a crime syndicate in March.