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Bicycle thefts rising Across Okinawa

Date Posted: 2004-05-14

Youngsters are being blamed for an 800% increase in bicycle thefts in Okinawa.

Prefectural officials say there are more than 200,000 bicycles registered on the island, an increase of some 25% over ten years ago.

The trouble is, thieves are finding it easier and easier to swipe the two-wheel vehicles from virtually anywhere. Police say they had 1,382 cases of bicycle theft last year, costing consumers ¥1,622,000.

Parking lots are the most common location for thefts, where owners typically fail to lock them. Police say that’s the problem 50% of the time. At the same time, police report they’re only able to recover about five percent of the stoken bikes.

The criminals are most often young teenagers 13-14 years old, that are the culprits. Typically, they’re 13-14 years old, although police note that in 40 cases, the perpretrator was under 13.

Police asked the captured bicyclists why they did it.

“I didn’t want to walk, I was so tired,” said one. Kids don’t think stealing bicycles is such a bad thing. They say it was there for the taking.

Parking lots accounted for 42.5% of the thefts, while department stores were the target another 20% of the time. Apartment parking lots was next at 19% and those simply parked along the street accounted for yet another nine percent.

Okinawa Prefectural Police report that often the bicycle owners are not island natives, but rather, came to live in the land of blue skies and emerald green waters.. And the thefts, they say, are tarnishing Okinawa’s reputation. Most bicycles cost at least ¥20,000, with some as much as ¥400,000.

Actual bicycles aren’t the only thing being stolen. There’s a market for parts, too. Handle bars, lights, motors,etc., are in high demand, according to police. “It is hard to catch thieves,” said one policeman. “because bicycles don’t have license plates like cars and motorcycles.”

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