BlogTV: How To Start A Crime Wave

Japanese TV news always shows the strangest things, and covers events in the strangest manner. This FujiTV video (6min40sec, English and Japanese subtitles) vividly demonstrates the one thing that I find totally incomprehensible about Japanese news reportage.

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The crime wave of home burglaries is a constant source of news coverage and analysis. This story is about the recent arrest of a gang of burglars that used a novel technique to break in. The method is called yakiaburi, a very interesting combination of two verbs, yaku and aburu, which both mean “to heat.” The video actually shows the yakiaburi technique, first you heat the window for 20 seconds with a small butane torch. Then you spray water on the hot spot, the window silently cracks into pieces. The thief can gain silent entry rather than causing a commotion by smashing the glass.

And this is what I cannot understand about Japanese TV news. In their reporting of the crime, they reenact the methods of the crime in such detail that it is practically an instructional video for criminals. If you never knew how to break into a home, now you are an expert. We see demonstrations in a glazier’s office, he prepares typical home windows and shows how easily they can be bypassed. Then he shows another technique, using a glass cutter in a triangle pattern, a neat wedge is silently removed right next to the latch, just enough room for a finger to reach in and unlock the window. The video uses a blur effect to conceal the precise movements of the glass cutter, but the methods are obvious despite the blurring. The glazier finally shows a secure safety glass, which of course costs ten times what the typical window glass costs.

I am continually astonished at this type of news coverage. I suppose they think this modus operandi is already common knowledge in Japan, so it is safe to let the public know how the thieves work. But I still can’t help thinking they are educating a whole new generation of criminals with these detailed demonstrations.

I’ve only ever seen one similar incident in the USA. When I lived in San Francisco, there was a rash of broken parking meters. The local TV station investigated, and discovered some thieves were breaking into parking meters with an automotive dent puller and stealing the coins. And then they demonstrated the actual technique on camera. Within a week, there was not a single working parking meter in San Francisco. The City had to replace every meter in the entire city at a huge expense, and boy were they hopping mad at the TV station. They promised not to ever do anything like that again, but a few weeks later, they showed how to break bicycle locks with a car jack. The same result: a crime wave of bicycle thefts.

I am also painfully conscious that this technique may not be widely known and I may be importing yakiaburi into the US. But that is ultimately FujiTV’s fault. Or so I will keep telling myself.

One thought on “BlogTV: How To Start A Crime Wave”

  1. Once I showed students in my cryptology class a practical use of differential cryptanalysis to break a master key system given a single regular key, a file and a dozen blanks.
    Turned out the university used that old style master key system, so the brighter students, good at cryptanalysis could get into any room.
    I got a severe dressing down by the dean, when it came out where they had learned the technique 😉
    Noone ever said Maths was useless again, that year 🙂

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