Saturday, May 21, 2011

18/05 VOX POPULI: Didn't take brilliance to make off with 600 million yen

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


They say the three things essential to good fishing are location, bait and skill--in that order.

It means that it is a waste of time to fish in waters where there are no fish, no matter how good the gear one uses or the skills one possesses.

The same thinking may apply to crime. Place and timing seem to be more important than equipment and technique.

A little more than 600 million yen ($7.4 million) was stolen May 12 from a security company office in Tachikawa, western Tokyo. The loot is said to be the largest ever stolen in Japan.

It is not every day that so many bundles of cash spend a night in a single office.

A senior official of the company asked why the robbers picked a day when there was so much money, but surely they must have picked it for that very reason.

The two thieves broke into the office through an unlocked window and forced an employee, who was napping, to tell them a security code for the strong room. They seemed very familiar with the inner workings of the company.

The company has had large amounts of money stolen from its cash delivery vehicles on a few occasions. It is likely the thieves knew that.

Before the latest robbery, the "300 million yen incident" in 1968 was the fifth-largest heist in Japanese history.

In the top four cases, which occurred more recently, the perpetrators have been caught or suspects in other cases admitted their involvement after the statute of limitations had run out. The 1968 incident is the only one that remains unsolved.

That was the year the top prize in the year-end lottery reached 10 million yen. Given that the average starting salary for university graduates was about 30,000 yen, 300 million yen back then would probably be worth more than 2 billion yen today.

Moreover, in the 1968 heist, the perpetrator quickly disguised himself as a police officer with a self-made "police motorcycle." It was a crime that would go down in history.

I don't think the Tachikawa case will be remembered for generations as the "600 million yen incident."

While there is no such thing as a refined or unrefined robbery, the method used in the latest case has no trace of ingenuity.

It was as easy as throwing a net into a small fish preserve. Most wrongdoers would have no trouble stealing the money if they knew where and when to break in.

If the robbers want to defend themselves, I'd like to hear their story. First, they should turn themselves in with their catch.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 17

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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