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Arson, shoplifting and robbery - crimes that involved Ofo bikes in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 15:05 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 10 January 2019

There were 180 incidents reported to police relating to Ofo bikes in Norwich before they were taken out of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

There were 180 incidents reported to police relating to Ofo bikes in Norwich before they were taken out of the city. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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There were 180 incidents reported to police which involved the short-lived Ofo bikes in Norwich before they were taken out of the city.

An Ofo bike being pulled out of the river in Norwich. Picture: Nigel BrocksAn Ofo bike being pulled out of the river in Norwich. Picture: Nigel Brocks

The 1,000 yellow dockless bikes were reported in incidents of arson, shoplifting and a BB gun shooting between October 2017 and November 2018, including the four months the scheme had stopped operating in Norwich.

Beijing-based Ofo withdrew the bike-sharing service from Norwich in July 2018, stating a focus on other key UK markets as the reason for its decision.

Some 55 of the incidents reported to police were recorded as crimes, including one case of arson in January 2018 when the bike was set on fire.

There were 11 reports of the bikes being used in possible drug-dealing crimes and three were used by wanted men.

Ofo bikes in the River Wensum by Bishop Bridge, Norwich. Picture: Nigel BrockOfo bikes in the River Wensum by Bishop Bridge, Norwich. Picture: Nigel Brock

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “Incidents like these are not unique to Ofo bikes and we will investigate all crimes reported to us regardless of what types of transport are used.”

‘Youths’ were reported to be using the bikes in 15 crime-related incidents, including one teenager riding the bike whilst firing a BB gun, two others throwing stones at cars and one group seen riding the bikes on the A47.

Around 17 suspected shoplifters were seen or had escaped on Ofo bikes and some were reportedly used in 24 possible or actual thefts and one robbery.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information Act request also revealed the bikes were thrown in the river eight times, dumped in someone’s garden once and was thrown around by a group of young people on one occasion.

Ofo began in China in 2014 and has around 200 million registered users – 200,000 of whom are in the UK – and 10 million bikes around the world.

Although hire numbers in Norwich were reportedly “high and remained strong” it was not enough to keep the firm in the city.

The company had also backed out Sheffield around the same time it had decided to pull the bikes from Norwich streets, but they are still in use in some areas of Cambridge.

Ofo has been approached for comment.

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