The revised Antigang Law took effect Tuesday, allowing authorities to label certain designated crime syndicates as repeat offenders against companies and shops, and immediately arrest members who make unlawful demands.
The success of the revision will depend on whether police can build and maintain the trust of local citizens. The efficacy of the revised law will be tested in terms of curbing gang activities such as illegal fund-raising–particularly in Fukuoka Prefecture, which has been hit by a series of brutal incidents involving gang members.
Recently, in Kokura-Kita Ward, Kitakyushu, police officers have regularly patrolled the streets in an entertainment district that is often visited by gang members.
An unsolved brutal murder in a busy nightclub has raised further fears about a deterioration in public safety in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, where the number of reported assaults has more than doubled in the past nine years. Three weeks have passed since a 31-year-old man was beaten to death by nine masked men at a Roppongi club, but the assailants remain unidentified and at large.
At about 2:40 a.m. on Sept. 2, two vans stopped in front of a multitenant building about 200 meters from the main Roppongi intersection. An hour later, nine men wearing sweatsuits and carrying metal bats got out of the vans and headed to “Flower,” a club on the second floor of the building. They put on full-face ski masks as they neared the club.
Being a weekend night, “Flower” was crowded with more than 200 people. The masked men walked straight to a VIP area at the back of the club where Ryosuke Fujimoto was drinking with friends and started bashing him with their bats. Without uttering a word, they continued their deadly assault for about a minute before making their escape.
Based on security camera footage and other information, the Metropolitan Police Department has found that the vans took the metropolitan expressway toward Higashi-Yamato, western Tokyo.
Police suspect the attackers are a group of men in their 20s and 30s with gang ties.
Underworld organizations are stepping up their attacks on enterprises in the wake of efforts by prefectural governments to enforce bylaws that prevent businesses from distributing profits to gangsters and keep gangsters from participating in public works projects.
These bylaws are also making it more difficult for gangs to collect protection fees from enterprises. In the past, gangsters threatened businesses mainly by firing bullets at their buildings. Following the enforcement of the anti-gang bylaws, company presidents and executives themselves are being targeted. The crimes are premeditated, with few clues, if any, left in most cases. It appears that underworld organizations are trying to shift the status quo back in their favor.
The trend in Fukuoka Prefecture is especially worrisome; in 2011, the prefecture experienced a nation-leading 18 shooting incidents. In nine of the incidents, enterprises or their officials were the targets. On Nov. 26, a construction company executive was shot to death in Kokura Kita Ward, Kitakyushu. Last month, on Jan. 17, a construction company president was seriously injured when he was shot in the stomach and the arm by a man who approached him in front of a branch of his company in Nakama.