Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jun 1999
Source: Japan Times
Contact:  (c) 1999 Japan Times


Police have confiscated 1,132.8 kg of stimulants in the first six months of
1999, surpassing the 1-ton level for the first time in any year, the
National Police Agency said Wednesday.

Large-scale busts in the first six months, such as one in Chiba that netted
over 200 kg and one in Osaka that yielded a similar amount, helped push the
figure past the previous yearly record of 650.8 kg set in 1996.

Alarmed at the rise in drug use, especially among the nation's youth, the
agency declared in January 1998 that the country had entered a period of
rampant stimulant abuse.

Although authorities are increasing efforts to intercept amphetamine-type
drugs, mostly methamphetamines, that are coming into the country, police
officials admit the amount they have managed to seize so far is only "the
tip of the iceberg" and are increasing efforts to cut drug abuse.

Key factors in the rise in big confiscations have been increased
cooperation between police and customs and maritime safety officials, as
well as more information exchange with overseas investigators, according to
the agency.

However; smuggling rings appear to be improving too, using ships with
high-tech navigational equipment and transferring shipments at sea rather
than on land.

Authorities have also confirmed that methamphetamines in the form of
tablets are flowing in from the so-called Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia.

According to the NPA, the amount of drugs seized each year was relatively
low for 20 years after the enactment of the Stimulant Drugs Control Law in
1951. However, the figure rose to more than 25 kg in 1971 due to an influx
of stimulants produced in South Korea, it said.

The figure remained flat for a few years, but surged to over 100 kg per
year in the late 1970s, when illegal drug production began in Taiwan and
organized crime groups in Japan began to rely on the stimulants trade, the
NPA said.

While seizures declined slightly in the early 1990s, in 1996, Kanagawa
Prefectural Police seized 528 kg of stimulants in one raid, the largest
drug bust in Japan to date.

Shocking figures show that more than 2 million people are abusing drugs,
indicating that abuse mainly by young people has become a grave issue.

According to the National Police Agency, while the number of large-scale
drug busts is on the rise, boosting total confiscation figures, street
values have remained about the same. This shows that supply routes in "the
third drug abuse era," declared by the NPA, have not been eradicated.

A survey conducted last September by an extra-departmental body of the NPA
says an estimated 2.18 million people are abusing drugs nationwide.

Of all those arrested in connection with stimulants, minors were the highest.

Although the NPA has taken efforts to crack down on violators, 137 junior
high and high school students were taken into custody for illegal stimulant
possession across the country last year.

Although methamphetamines smuggled into Japan were refined almost
exclusively in China, more stimulants are coming from other areas such as
the Golden Triangle, and trafficking routes are also varying, the sources

Police are desperate to eradicate systematic trafficking operations.

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