Connect with us

Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Tokyo Police at 150 Face Challenges of Sophisticated Crimes

The Tokyo police will require the ability to evolve to meet the challenges of a more diversified society and the changing environment surrounding public safety.



Members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Riot Police Unit march on January 12 in front of the Meiji Memorial Museum. (©Sankei by Hideyuki Matsui)

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which is responsible for public safety in the Tokyo Metropolis, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its establishment in 1897. 

In his 1976 book Forces of Order: Policing Modern Japan, the American political scientist David H Bayley praised Japan's police for its exceptional integrity and ties of trust with the public. He labeled the Japanese police a "mirror that reflects [Japanese] society." 

However, today's MPD faces several very contemporary challenges.

First, it must respond to increasingly radicalized or sophisticated forms of crime. Three categories that are especially difficult to deal with are indiscriminate mass murder, special fraud, and cybercrime. Although the techniques required for investigation are highly complex, the legal weapons available have not kept up with the times.

Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress attending the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's 150th anniversary ceremony on the morning of January 15 in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. (Handout)

Technology-Driven Crime

Such crimes are proliferating on the internet, where criminals can hide their identities. However, effective countermeasures are limited under the current legal system. Advanced communication interception and active defense could be employed to break through the barrier of anonymity. But these approaches are currently legally impossible. How can we deal with this situation?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, shouldn't we incorporate social media and artificial intelligence into police activities? The installation of security cameras has resulted in a drastic reduction in the incidence of street crimes. These include purse snatching and carjackings, which were major headaches in the past. 

Likewise, cases of burglary in which the thief enters by picking a lock have been reduced by improving the functionality of keys and locks. Constant technical cooperation with the private sector will undoubtedly continue to contribute to improving public safety in the future. The police would do well to actively use the Internet in their investigations. 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's headquarters on September 26, 2022, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (©Sankei by Ryosuke Kawaguchi)

More Police Involvement

Another problem is a shortage of personnel. While it is not a problem exclusive to the police, perhaps the time has come to consider to what extent the koban police boxes system should be retained in Tokyo.

Furthermore, the Tokyo metropolitan area is at greater risk of major disasters than ever before. What roles do the police have to play in responding to such disasters? The MPD needs to be fully prepared and know what to do in any contingency.


Japanese society is becoming increasingly diversified. The public order that the police are there to protect may also be subject to change. With the number of stalking cases soaring, resulting in many painful incidents, the police are being criticized for their inaction. 

Responding to cases in which abused children have gone without help, the public is demanding stronger collaboration with child counseling centers and active intervention. In the past, the police were not allowed to get involved in cases like that because they were considered civil matters. Now, there is a strong desire for police involvement. 

Evolving Security Landscape

Society and the environment surrounding public safety are both changing. That means the MPD will require the ability to evolve to meet new challenges. 

Since marking its centenary in 1974, the Tokyo MPD has modernized public security activities and criminal investigations of the Cold War era. The past five decades have been characterized by the fight against domestic and international organized crime. The next 50 years will present new challenges in the landscape of crime for the MPD.

Finally, organizations can be shaken up by scandals. A scandal by the police can create aftershocks that will impede freedom of investigation. Let us not forget that ensuring the police have the power to expose illegal activity remains the first priority. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners