Welcome to Japan, the land of bizarre inventions. If you have visited a police station, shops or commercial establishments in Japan, then you have most probably seen the orange orbs that are the size of a baseball. They can usually be found next to the cash register. These are not for sale though, want to know why? That is because these bright orange orbs are anti-crime devices.
The local name of these balls is ‘bohan yu kara boru’ and their distinctive color is due to the orange paint contained within them. How do they help in deterring crimes? The idea is for the store employees to make use of these balls in case of a theft or robbery by throwing them at the culprit. The balls upon hitting will burst, and the perpetrator shall be marked with orange paint thus making it easier for the police to identify and thus apprehend him. The same approach can be used for marking the car/van being used for robbery.
They are hardly used though and according to research that was conducted by Japan’s National Police Agency these anti-crime balls have only been used in 3% of robberies of so far. Partly this is the case because in a life-death scenario you are better off by not throwing a paintball at the armed thief. Nonetheless, store employees are trained and taught how to throw them in the most efficient manner. The key points include aiming for the floor near the culprit’s feet thus increasing the chances of paint getting splashed on the thief. If that doesn’t work as well, they are to aim for the getaway car.
So, the question arises that if they’re not being used then why keep them close to cash counters? Well, because psychology! Having them at the shops have resulted in a lower crime rate since would-be robbers avoid robbing such stores where they can get marked resulting in apprehension. Public safety officer Akihiro Suwa said, “Even if the balls aren’t actually used, that they are in the store, and visible to would-be thieves help protect the store. That’s why we, and police departments around the country, ask banks and store owners to include color balls as part of their crime-prevention efforts”.
Kazuo Kimura, senior manager for the public relations at a convenience store said, “We have introduced color balls in all of our 8,500 stores, and we put signs on them so there’s no mistake about what they’re there for”.
The balls have a limited shelf life and must be replaced because the pigment eventually hardens over time. The manufacturers don’t do any marketing and keep a low profile to prevent anyone from buying them and using them for the purpose of vandalism.