The Yomiuri ShimbunOSAKA — As the number of investigations into crimes by foreigners across Japan has increased, the Osaka prefectural police is suffering from a shortage of interpreters, who attend the questioning of foreign suspects.
Over the past five years, the number of interpreters at the prefectural police has decreased by 70 due to aging and other reasons. There have even been cases where the Osaka police, which have faced difficulty in securing sufficient interpreters, have asked other prefectural police to send interpreters for assistance.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games approaching, there is concern that the number of crimes committed by foreign nationals may further increase.
Thus, the Osaka prefectural police have begun taking measures such as encouraging an increase in the number of interpreters.
In late October, in a police station’s interrogation room in Osaka Prefecture, detectives were asking a Chinese man questions after he was arrested on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.
He was asked about his motives and what happened in his alleged crime.
An interpreter of the Chinese language translated what the detectives were saying into Chinese and the suspect’s answers into Japanese for the detectives.
The time it takes to question foreign suspects is said to be double compared to questioning in Japanese. There are some occasions where questioning foreign suspects lasts from the morning to the night, with breaks.
A female interpreter said: “There are cases where I’m called in at 2 a.m. Every time I speak, I feel nervous about whether nuances have been correctly understood by both sides.”
According to the National Police Agency’s statistics, the number of investigated crimes by foreign nationals last year was 17,006, with the figure increasing about 10 percent compared to five years ago.
In Osaka Prefecture, the figure rose about 20 percent to 863 due to an increase in the number of visitors and residents from other countries, as well as other reasons.
Nationwide, the number of interpreters registered with the police increased from about 12,800 in 2013 to about 13,700 in April this year. However, at the Osaka prefectural police, the number of interpreters has decreased about 70 to about 1,240.
Among the current interpreters, about 460 are officials of the prefectural police, and the remainder are interpreters from outside the police.
These outside interpreters are mainly people who are highly skilled in foreign languages, such as translators, who are registered with the police as interpreters for police questioning. But the prefectural police now face a shortage of interpreters.
The shortage has already caused problems with investigations. Last year, the Osaka prefectural police investigated 229 cases of crimes committed by Vietnamese people, but the police only had about 20 interpreters of the Vietnamese language.
In cases of illegal employment and others in which large numbers of suspects were questioned in a case, the questioning was conducted with the assistance of interpreters who were dispatched from the Hyogo prefectural police.
There are also interpreters who have to busily visit multiple police stations because their work schedules cannot be sufficiently coordinated.
A senior official of the Osaka prefectural police said, “We can’t impose too heavy a burden on our interpreters because many of them are elderly.”
To secure interpreters, the Osaka prefectural police recruits interpreters via its website and also asks for cooperation from foreign language faculties of universities and other entities to find human resources suitable for the job. But the police said the number of applicants has been low.
Additionally, as the police have few interpreters of minority languages, study sessions were started in November, inviting lecturers of Osaka University’s School of Foreign Studies to attend.
On Nov. 2, lecturers of the Urdu and Tagalog languages checked the language skill levels of police interpreters and gave explanations about technical terms and expressions, including those used on local social media.
A senior official of the Osaka prefectural police said: “It’s predicted that crimes committed by foreigners will increase. We want to resolve the shortage of interpreters as soon as possible so that our investigations will not be seriously hindered.”Speech