It’s normal that when older people retire, they take up a new hobby to pass the huge amount of time they suddenly find in their hands. Some take to sports, and some old people even take to sprinting andchallenge Usain Bolt to a race. But the National Police Agency (NPA) has revealed startling new data, where it shows that there is a marked increase in the number of elderly people who have taken to stalking. In light of the spotlight on a stalker murder of a student in recent days, these numbers paint a bleak picture of Japan, which has had a long history of problems with stalking.
The country’s problem with stalking has led it to recently strengthen sanctions and revise strategies of how the police should handle stalking cases. In October, Japan changed the law to recognize e-mails as a medium of stalking harassment, along with phone calls and faxes. But this seemingly has not affected the growing number of elderly people – mostly elderly men above 60 – who are contributing to this problem. According to the NPA, the number of stalking incidents perpetrated by people aged 60 and over in 2012 was 1,834, an increase of almost 400 percent from numbers in 2003. Stalkers aged 70 and older jumped to 505, a 460 percent increase from 2003. Add this to a generally growing number of stalking cases being reported – the number of reported cases in 2012 was recorded at 19,920, up 36.3 percent from the previous year and the highest since the police first started tracking the crime in 2000 – and the police have really got a definite problem in their hands. Elderly stalking cases now make up 9 percent of this total, a sharp increase from 3 percent in 2003.
So what is causing this surge in numbers? In very real terms, it could just be that victims are merely reporting incidents more frequently. Akiko Kobayakawa, president of a victim-support organization called Humanity, said that in her 14 years working with victims, about 20 percent have identified their stalkers as “older men”, and according to NPA data, men commit 86 percent of stalking crimes in Japan. But the fact is that Japan’s population as a whole is aging, and there are just more and more old people in the country. Japan’s population is roughly the same size it was in 2000, but more than 30 percent of Japanese are now aged 60 and over.