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Japanese anti-crime orange balls

Updated: May 12, 2021

If you go to Japan, you’ll see almost every shop have bright coloured balls stored near the cash counter. From banks to general stores, they’re everywhere. They may be the size of baseballs, but they serve a specific purpose – that of fighting crime.

Named bohan yo kara baru, these balls are supposed to be used in case there’s a robbery attempt. The store employee has to throw the ball (which is filled with paint) at the thief and mark him. The logic behind this is that the paint would make it easier for the police to spot a thief on the run. Despite sounding like a great idea, not many people have the courage to fling it.

According to the country’s National Police Agency, there were 230 late-night store robberies in the first half of 2007. In 197 of those robberies, the store keeper could throw a coloured ball if he/she wanted to. In 190 cases, they refrained from doing it. Only seven people (kudos to them) had the courage to use these balls. The fear is understandable considering the store employees don’t want to risk their lives.

Also, they may not be able to throw the ball accurately. To solve this, it is recommended for an employee to aim at the ground near the culprit’s feet. If they do this, the resulting splash would be successful in marking the thief.

Store employees can also try to mark the thief’s getaway vehicle where they’ll have a larger area to aim at. Considering only 3% of people use it, these balls may seem useless but they act as a useful deterrent. Every thief in Japan is aware of them and that instills an element of fear. Initially, these balls were intended to mark toll evaders on national highways. With time though, they became popular and were adopted by other establishments too.

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