For the first time since authorities began collecting data in 1989, elderly shoplifters outnumber teenage shoplifters in Tokyo.
In 2012, Tokyo police arrested 3,321 people aged 65 or older for shoplifting, accounting for 24.5 percent of the total. In 1999, just 336 people aged 65 or over were arrested for shoplifting.
Those aged 19 or younger made up 23.6 percent, with 3,195 individual arrests, down from more than 4,000 a year earlier.
About 70 percent of the items stolen by seniors were food products. Investigators believe the rise in shoplifting among seniors is tied to increasing poverty and isolation from family support as Japan modernizes.
Among elderly people arrested for shoplifting in 2012, 72.7 percent were unemployed and 11.3 percent were on welfare. Of them, 32.6 percent said they had committed the crime because of poverty and 32.4 percent said they had no one to turn to for advice.
Police said they will use survey results to prevent shoplifting among seniors by coordinating with other organizations.
Around a quarter of Japan’s 128 million population is aged 65 or older. A government survey last week found 3.5 million elderly women and 1.4 million elderly men live alone.