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Oregonian covers stolen bike story

Posted by on January 29th, 2007 at 7:54 am

It’s been forever since I last posted a stolen bike recovery story.

This time, the story comes from S. Renee Mitchell’s column in the Oregonian last week. She has the story of Erin Greeson’s high-end carbon-fiber racing bike getting nabbed from New Seasons in Sellwood:

“I was waiting in line to pay,” she says, “and had a horrible feeling in my gut. Within seconds, her large and unlocked bike, worth around $2,000, disappeared.”

Erin got her bike back because of four things; good people,

“New Seasons employees drove around the neighborhood trying to spot it….Officer Stephen Gandy showed up to take a police report and she remembers Gandy saying, ‘I’m going to get your bike back.'”


“Greeson logged onto bikeportland.org, which has bike theft-prevention tips. The site also compiles a daily digest of missing bikes, which is sent to local shops, police officers and fellow cyclists.”


“…Sellwood Cyclery co-owner Steven Landon suggested that Greeson post details about her stolen bike on finetoothcog.com. The online site scans Craigslist and eBay and looks for possibly stolen bikes for sale. The repair shop used the alerts to help eight owners get their bikes back last year.”


“A few hours after Greeson posted her bike details, she received a call from a cyclist named Brian. He saw a bike on Southeast 82nd Avenue that matched her online description.”

and good advice,

“The Jan. 5 sighting prompted Greeson to follow Gandy’s previous advice: Call area pawn shops. She found her bike after the second phone call. It’s on sale for $150.”

The moral of the story? According to Greeson,

“Grass-roots methods can solve problems and strangers can be friendly. I never dreamt that something like a stolen bicycle would be any big deal to them, but their level of concern and empathy blew me away.”

I just love how so many different people played a role in getting this bike back. Congrats Erin…now go get a nice U-lock and start using it!

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

  • Jim F January 29, 2007 at 8:10 am

    Seriously? She left a $2,000 bike unlocked in front of the store? And she was upset that it got stolen? That is insane.

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  • Donald January 29, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Looks like Mitchell spent her inches on you again today, Jonathan. Nice!


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  • Ethan January 29, 2007 at 8:39 am

    So she covers it as a nice human interest story . . . has she changed her tune about bicycles in general?

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  • Jonathan Maus January 29, 2007 at 8:43 am

    “has she changed her tune about bicycles in general?”

    I can’t speak for Renee, but we had a very nice conversation and I think she’s on her way to seeing bikes in a better light.

    And take a look at her column in today’s paper. The title, “Putting pedal power to work on attitudes” pretty much sums it all up.

    I think this goes to show what a powerful force bikes can be if we focus on community and show Portland that we stand for more than Critical Mass and protests.

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  • Damon January 29, 2007 at 9:07 am

    I have to agree that you’re kind of a knob if you don’t protect something you care so much about with even a flimsy cable lock.

    But, glad Erin got the bike back all the same; it’s not something that happens often.

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  • Bill January 29, 2007 at 9:23 am

    One thing I find troubling is that pawn shops are supposed to hold onto an item they purchase for 30 days before putting it up for sale. This waiting period allows time for a possible stolen item to be recovered by its owner instead of being purchased right away by someone else. Last year I helped two customers recover stolen bikes from pawn shops (one was posted on Craig’s List, the other on Ebay).
    The pawnshop in Beaverton (located very close to Beaverton High School) had the bike on sale within a couple of days of its disapperance. The crazy thing is that after the original owner contacted the pawn shop and told them he had legal proof they had his $3000 bike and he would like to talk to them about getting his bike, they went online right away and increased their selling price by $1000! In the end, the pawn shop showed a lot of resistance and Dave ended up paying them $115 for the bike to reduce the amount of time and effort in the recovery. The police were involved with this situation but were of little help…. Youd think with a police report and an original sales receipt with serial number it wouldve been cut and dry.

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  • Dabby January 29, 2007 at 9:39 am

    While it is distressing for a bike to be stolen, I seriously do not think this is news worthy.
    I have seen alot about this theft alone recently.
    So, you left your nice bike unlocked while you are in the big grocery store.
    You might as well hang a free sign on it.
    It appears she is getting it back, and that is good.
    But, alot of the fault here lies mainly on Erin, who didn’t love her bike enough to lock it.
    This is harsh but true.

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  • Cecil January 29, 2007 at 9:45 am

    The moral of this story? If you like your bike, carry a lock and use it, ’cause chances are someone else will also like it.

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  • DK January 29, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I applaud all the New Season markets for their bike friendly convenience, especially when there are plenty of racks (for the most part), and they are always out in the open. It doesn’t surprise me that their employees did all they could to help Erin. But it also is a haven for would be thieves, who constantly scope out the abundance of nice bikes, for the one they can grab and dash off with. I have a 12 year old Gary Fisher that I just enjoy the crap out of, and even it gets my undivided attention as to where and how I park and lock it. I would miss it soooo bad if someone took it. Another hot spot is the 24 hr Fitness gym in NW. Have you ever seen more bikes jammed into one area, so out of sight from the public? Glad you have your bike back Erin, and I think we all need a reminder like this to again understand that our bikes are always being watched…by the bad people. Also, enough about breaking Erin’s chops about not locking up. I bet that never happens again.

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  • JeffH January 29, 2007 at 11:54 am

    “We’re going to get your bike back” ?

    It seems rather odd to to me that the officer was so determined, and that so many people pitched in, to recover a $2,000 stolen bike.

    What happens when Joe Six-pack Portlander has his $400 bike stolen? Nobody cares. The police don’t care. And New Seasons employees don’t get into a truck to look for the bike.

    I’m sorry to be cynical, but it’s a little odd that police responded so well to someone who is well-off enough to afford a $2,000 bicycle, but that my friends’ requests to help recover their bikes were met with apathy and/or inaction.

    All I know is that I keep my bike locked securely. And I only paid $600 for it :)

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  • Rixtir January 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I guess I’ll have to be the cynic– a pawn shop with stolen property in its possession, and the police don’t bat an eye? I thought the pawnshop was supposed to be out the money it pays the thief if they get caught with a stolen bike in their inventory– the stolen property is supposed to go back to the owner. Not the first time I’ve read about Portland police aiding and abetting pawn shops dealing in stolen merchandise, though. Seems to be S.O.P. in this town. And what about the requirement for pawn shops to take ID on merchandise? I don’t suppose there’s been any follow-up on investigating who this thief might be.

    I hate to play the cynic, but somebody’s got to ask these questions…

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  • Rixtir January 29, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Bill, comment Number 6, I think these incidents highlight the police corruption in this town when it comes to pawn shops dealing in stolen merchandise. A pawn shop has stolen items in its possession? AA pawn shop puts stolen items up for sale before the waiting period is up? A pawn shop puts up resistance to returning a bike?

    What ever happened to the police enforcing the law?

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  • Matt G January 29, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Stupidity is rewarded. Yeah, the system works!

    Move on, there is nothing to see here. It’s unfortunate that Mitchell spent her inches on a sob story about abject stupidity.

    There have been other much more meaningful bike recoveries that would be have been better to cover.

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  • Qwendolyn January 29, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    I have to agree with JeffH from post 10 on this one. The police work for the upper class. Period. Must be nice to have someone care when your bike gets stolen.

    And as an aside, it’s more than a little jaw-dropping that someone left their $2000 dollar bike unlocked outside the grocery store.

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  • SKiDmark January 29, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Is the pawn shop up on recieving stolen property charges, like you or I would be if we had it for sale?

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  • Wyatt January 30, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Maybe this represents a positive new trend in police behavior.

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  • beth January 30, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    JeffH wrote:
    >>It seems rather odd to to me that the officer was so determined, and that so many people pitched in, to recover a $2,000 stolen bike.
    What happens when Joe Six-pack Portlander has his $400 bike stolen? Nobody cares. The police don’t care. And New Seasons employees don’t get into a truck to look for the bike.

    I hate to agree with this, but I do.

    On another note: The bike was unlocked.
    We live in a harsh world where people steal things. Especially things that aren’t tied down. So while I’m glad the owner recovered the bike in this case, I’m not feeling vast quantities of shock here.

    As I tell every peson who buys a bike from me: Get the best lock you can buy. None is as expensive as a new bicycle. And use that lock every [bleep!]ing time. Period.

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  • erin g. February 1, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Greetings all,

    First and foremost, wow. Secondly, ouch!

    It’s me, the one who lost and recovered the stolen bike. How amazing to stumble upon this online forum in which the topic of heated debate is… me. What I see strikes me as a fascinating demonstration of human nature and, most of all, human folly. This heated dialogue exemplifies our tendency to cast judgment (rather than examining ourselves), perpetuate stereotypes, and mistakenly jump to conclusions based on profoundly limited information. I hope that by learning a little more about my story you might discover the opportunity to channel your energies in a proactive direction, which might catalyze some positive change for our cycling community and laws that impact us and the recovery of our stolen bikes.

    Many thanks to those few who expressed some sympathy and understanding here. Believe me, no one is more painfully aware of the foolish error in failing to lock my beloved bike than me. It is amazing to see that total strangers have been spending their time examining my personal character, intelligence level, and even my presumed socioeconomic status… all based an iceberg tip of a story- a long story that was loosely summarized and abbreviated by a third-party writer for a newspaper column.

    For those who decided to rank me among the “upper class,” you’ll be interested to know that I purchased the high-end bike used for merely $400 (but I’ve upgraded numerous parts over the years). The bike was purchased from an acquaintance, and he’d acquired it from a friend/coworker at a local bike shop, where the new bike was purchased well below retail price (employees get discounts). So please don’t presume that a stranger has thousands to spend on bikes, simply because a columnist recorded a bike model’s estimated resell value. For a better understanding of my socioeconomic status, please feel free to check out my small one-bedroom rental apartment (you’ll be warmly received, and we can talk bikes over beers), or perhaps inquire as to the profundity of my student loans. These would be much better signifiers of my socioeconomic standing than the caliber of bike that I ride. Perhaps note that I turned down renter’s insurance when I finally had to buy car insurance and a car for occasional work-related travel (a luxurious 10-year-old Honda with 125K miles, mind you, but I still prefer to bike commute nearly everyday). Ironically, I noted the bike was my only valuable. I do not watch or own a t.v., much less other more expensive sorts of tech toys, etc. Those who know me know that I am not at all interested in material things.

    In regards to this topic of economic status, it is interesting that, when my bike was nabbed, New Seasons employees had an idea of who might have done it, because the possible alleged suspect was a regular, of sorts- someone who they “keep a close eye on” because there had apparently been previous attempts at swiping things from the store. Rather than cursing the person who allegedly could have taken the bike, I found myself saying to one sympathetic New Seasons employee, “People living in harsh, desperate situations are just trying to get by each day. Sometimes folks will take things that don’t belong to them…it’s part of the street survival game.”

    So, rather than cursing the person who might have nabbed the bike, I tried to understand what might drive someone to do that (not that I condone or justify theft, of course). All I ask is that those now examining my situation do the same, rather than jumping to conclusions about my intelligence or income tax bracket.

    Whereas your examination of my personal character and situation is actually sort of humorous to me (I am someone who laughs often, especially at myself), I am not okay with your similar approach to judging Officer Gandy and his motives in helping me. You suggest that it was the value of the bike the drove his interest in helping me recover the stolen item. It might not have occurred to you that perhaps he was just a kind, helpful, good human being. Believe me, they do exist in this world. Yes, that’s right, even cops. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with cops in my day. And bus drivers. And business executives. And social activists. I encourage you to avoid stereotyping people who you know nothing about. The gross generalizations and conclusions that you drew based on a mere fragment of a much larger story are really quite remarkable in their inaccuracy. If I were one who’d posted such harshly accusatory and incorrect conclusions for all to read, I’d feel even more embarrassed and ashamed than someone who is foolish and trusting enough to leave a bike unattended. Prejudice is a far greater crime in my book.

    For the record, when I expressed my thanks to Officer Gandy and surprise at how tenaciously he responded to my bike theft situation (again, I’ve had both good and bad experiences with cops), he simply and sincerely stated, “I am passionate about my job. I like to help people.” I believe that he perceived how much the bike meant to me. Those who know me well know that cycling is my release, my meditation, my favorite recreational activity, and my primary source of transportation. It was not the loss of the specific bike that had me distraught, but the loss of what riding has come to mean to me as a daily part of life. Officer Gandy could tell. Whereas I fully agree with those who remind me that I shouldn’t have foolishly left the bike unattended, I just can’t accept your accusations towards this great guy; We should all be happy that there are police officers out there like him. Another is Officer Rilling, who was not mentioned in the article, but who helped me a great deal. He also happens to be a cyclist, just like us.

    We shouldn’t believe everything verbatim that we read in a newspaper. There were several facts in Renee’s account of my story that were accidentally jumbled and many details that were left out for brevity’s sake. Ultimately, I appreciated Renee Mitchell’s interest in my positive story of everyday heroism. My sole purpose in contacting her in the first place was to convey appreciation towards the police officers, New Seasons employees, Sellwood Cycle Repair team, and random strangers who went out of their way to help me. A friend pointed out that Renee had devoted her column to small acts of heroism and suggested that I share my story with the columnist, so I did. Never did I imagine that it would lead to more challenges—especially stemming from others in the cycling community.

    For the record, you might be interested in some interesting facets of the tale that did not make print: one very kind New Seasons employee sprinted down the street in the rain in attempt to catch the thief (the theft occurred within a two-minute window), while another offered me tea and a hug. The article also didn’t have room to note that three officers helped with my case during those weeks, all promptly returning my follow-up calls and offering helpful information about next-steps. Perhaps this was because I approached them with kindness and great courtesy, but it’s more so because I was so fortunate as to connect with these particularly helpful individuals who truly cared about helping a stranger. Finally, the article jumbled some facts about how my local bike repair shop helped. Thanks to Sellwood Cycle Repair, I had my serial number and record of maintaining the bike. They also generously extended positive and encouraging words, a quick replacement possibility to help me get back on the road, and extra sets of watchful eyes (“we’d recognize your bike from a mile away” and “If I saw anyone on your bike…you’d get it back.”).

    Ultimately, it is a little disheartening to find that what I perceived to be a very positive story about some very good citizens was been perceived with such negativity by some of you. Perhaps those with such negative perceptions might feel better if you were out for a ride on this gorgeous sunny day, rather than misusing energy by ripping on a bike theft victim online.

    As someone who once lived and worked in very rough areas of Philly and New York, I used to live my life in a constantly guarded manner, witnessing acts of everyday crime and theft on a regular basis. It was simply part of life. After five years in comparably slow-paced Portland, three in the notoriously friendly Sellwood neighborhood, perhaps I’ve become too soft. I normally use a heavy New York chain lock wherever I go, but on that fateful night in December I admittedly faltered, letting my guard down for but a few moments, thinking the quick errand would be okay. For those who have pointed out my foolish error, don’t forgot that all humans make mistakes sometimes, and that this is how we learn. Clearly, I will never- ever- leave anything unlocked again. I hope that others can learn from my mistake. Also, be sure to write down your serial number and keep photos of your bike on file. Even locked bikes are stolen everyday. You don’t know how badly bike theft hurts until you become one of those cases that you always hear about.

    Finally, because I believe in the power of positive, proactive energy, I encourage you to redirect your feelings towards my case in another way: by addressing the skewed policies surrounding pawnshops and the recovery of stolen bikes. Yesterday I sent the below email to Jonathan Maus. You might find it interesting, as the topic impacts anyone who has a bike that could potentially be stolen and pawned.

    Thank you to those who had positive or sympathetic things to say about my situation. How amazing to see what can happen online when one’s name and but the outer layer of a very long story runs in a newspaper. Just like the story of my unlocked bike, this is a fascinating example of human nature, our flaws, and our ability to counteract our errors by taking a positive approach to next steps and possibilities.

    Have fun and ride safely,


    Some of my Letter to Jonathan:

    Thank you for all of the excellent work that you do. Your forum is a web-based manifestation of the solidarity, progressive mentality, and positive outlook that makes Portland’s bike community so unique. Your site is a superb source of dialogue, resources, and information. Please keep up this great work!

    As soon as my USPS Trek was stolen, I turned to bikeportland.org. The tips about how to proceed were very helpful.

    You’ll be glad to know that yesterday- four weeks following the date upon which I tracked my bike to an 82nd St. pawnshop- the pawn division of the PPD gave me the go-ahead to go purchase my bike back for $150. I’m elated to have the bike again, and I fully realize how fortunate I am. I normally ride everyday, no matter what the weather is like; cycling fuels my spirit and I don’t believe in driving to work, needlessly emitting CO2. Before getting back on the road, I’ll have my friends at Sellwood Cycle Repair give the thing a good once-over to ensure that it’s not cracked or damaged (they’re the greatest, most helpful shop, and I’m lucky to live nearby!).

    But now I embark upon another mission, and I am wondering if you might have advice or whether you might even be interested in joining me. There is dire need for reform in regards to the law surrounding stolen bikes and recovery from pawnshops. Even some police officers throughout my bike theft journey confided that they, too, feel that the law is bogus. It protects pawnshop owners – the purveyors of clearly stolen property- as opposed to theft victims. I am happy to have my bike back for $150, but it does seem strange that it is I- the rightful owner- who bears the expense, rather than the pawnshop dealer who wrongfully bought the hot item in the first place. It seems that he, not I, should be the one to attempt to reclaim the money via court proceedings (which might supposedly lead to a conviction, which would require the thief to pay back the $150…all of which seems far-fetched, in my book. Not to mention it could take months two a year, according to one officer).

    As I’ve navigated this process of losing and reclaiming my bike, it’s become clear that police officers and bike community members alike seem perplexed by this law. Two friends have told me to write/call the Mayor’s office, as they’re “outraged” that I, the rightful owner, am paying to reclaim my own property (I am still too euphoric about having found my bike to care much about the money!). I hear that the pawnshops have a strong lobby; I’d be interested to learn more. What can we do to create a movement towards changing this skewed, unfair system, which makes things easy for the pawnshops and hard on the theft victims? As far as supporting a movement, I’d like to help.

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  • Reverend Ebb February 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    erin has an incredible outlook on all this and i applaud her for her positivity in light of the endless chaos of hoop-juming and patience she’s endured. my takeaway, having had several high end bikes stolen and never recovered, is that pawn shops are a blight on society. no i did not search every single one, but something tells me that if i knew which one(s) to focus on, i could scrape some black rattle can spray paint off an attractive $150 bike and find a nice shiny Pegoretti under there…

    pawn shop lobbyists, by all means weigh in here.

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