The anti-yakuza campaign has spread across the nation, with local governments passing ordinances to sever ties with syndicates and companies and citizens trying to eradicate organized crime in their communities.
But now, the yakuza are fighting back.
Police say gangsters have increased their attacks against anti-yakuza civilians in recent months, particularly in the Kyushu region.
According to police, 28 such cases have occurred since January 2011.
Grenades were used in several attacks in Fukuoka, and innocent bystanders have been wounded.
Arrests have been made in only two of the crimes.
In the latest case, Takashi Kurose, president of a construction company, was shot in the abdomen in front of the company’s Nakama office in Fukuoka Prefecture early on Jan. 17.
Kurose was taken to a hospital in Kita-Kyushu in serious condition, but he is expected to recover from his injuries in one month.
According to investigators, Kurose’s company, a subcontractor of construction projects, was given the authority to select sub-subcontractors for work by a general construction company that oversees such projects.
Police suspect the shooting was made in retaliation for the company’s efforts to sever the relationship between the local construction industry and the Kita-Kyushu-based Kudokai yakuza group.
The National Police Agency has listed the gangster group as a “designated boryokudan organization.” It will likely be deemed “particularly violent” under the NPA’s proposed new system on classifying organized crime groups.
Victims in many similar incidents had also tried to drive out organized crime groups from their hometowns.
Some investigative sources said ordinances that were adopted to remove the yakuza presence from local communities are the main factor behind the recent rise in attacks.
By October last year, all 47 prefectures had passed anti-yakuza ordinances banning citizens and companies from interacting with yakuza groups or providing profits to them. Those rules have pushed the yakuza into a corner.
“The police are the sole entity to protect the safety of citizens,” said Yutaka Katagiri, commissioner general of the NPA. “Our successful pursuit of that duty holds the key to whether we will be able to eradicate yakuza.”
But the gangsters are showing no signs of going away.
In November in Kita-Kyushu, the 72-year-old chairman of a construction firm was fatally shot by two people on a motorcycle in front of his home.
After that shooting, the NPA instructed police nationwide to ensure protection for potential targets of yakuza attacks. Some officers with expertise in security have been dispatched to act as bodyguards for those in serious danger.
However, the police cannot provide such protection for all potential targets.
About 1,900 people are considered in need of police protection across the nation. Police supply them with devices for emergency calls or send staff to keep watch over them. But some of the potential targets have declined the police department’s offers, saying they would be bothered by staying close to police, police said.
A gangster was arrested on suspicion of firing bullets at a construction firm in Fukuoka Prefecture’s Iizuka in February. No one was hurt in that incident.
In another case, a gangster was arrested on suspicion of assaulting and injuring an executive of a civil engineering firm, who was beaten on the head, in Fukuoka Prefecture’s Kurume in November.
But police have not found enough evidence to make arrests in the 26 other cases.
Another problem in the police investigations is that the gangsters have apparently become more adept at hiding their weapons.
Police seized 98 guns in 2010. In previous years, the annual number consistently topped 1,000.
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