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Japan's ebike craze spawns spate of battery theft

Growing demand and easy resale options drive cases to record highs

A security officer rides an electric bicycle through the grounds of Osaka Castle. The prefecture had seen 338 cases of bicycle battery theft as of October.   © Reuters

OSAKA/TOKYO -- As bicycles gain popularity as an alternative to Japan's crowded trains and buses amid the coronavirus, thieves are homing in on electric bike batteries as a quick way to make some extra cash.

"Stealing batteries from electric bikes is easy, and I got caught up in it," a 49-year-old man told Osaka police after he was arrested in August for stealing a battery from a bike stand in the city of Yao.

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