Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 22nd, 2008 at 11:05 am
The New York Times has an amazing report (In a Cyclist-Friendly City, a Black Hole for Bikes - 8/21/08) about a man in Toronto, Canada who was caught with nearly 3,000 stolen bikes in his possession.
According to the report, Igor Kenk was a used bike shop owner (among other things) who was addicted to hoarding bikes. Here are a few choice quotes from the story:
"The jumbled collection of bicycles suggests that Mr. Kenk is the unofficial world champion of bicycle thieves."
"He’s easily the most hated man in Toronto,” said Alex Jansen, a filmmaker who has been working on a documentary about Mr. Kenk."
"About 15,000 hopeful cyclists, some teary-eyed, have scoured the Kenk collection in search of their missing bicycles."
"Ten landlords around the city reported that their garages had been rented by Mr. Kenk and were bulging with bicycles."
Why would someone steal so many bikes?
The report says an investigator thinks Kenk was "playing the commodities market" and waiting for a spike in scrap metal before melting them down. Kenk himself told a documentary filmmaker that he thinks of himself as, "a crusader against theft and a protector of cast-off bicycles."
Several people have emailed me the link to this story and wondered if something like this could happen in Portland. Fortunately, to my knowledge no large bike theft ring or Igor Kenk-like efforts have happened here.
Bike theft, while always a threat and a nuisance in Portland, even seems to be on a downward curve. In a recent story published in The Oregonian (Nation-crossing cyclist forges friendships over stolen bike - 8/19/08), Portland Police spokesman Brian Schmautz said that reported thefts are actually down compared to last year (from 741 to 570 through mid-August).
A quick count of entries into the BikePortland/Finetoothcog Stolen Bike Listings (an unresolved technical glitch has prevented listings from showing up on BikePortland since February) reveals 128 thefts in July 2007 and 103 in July 2008.
This apparent decrease in thefts is especially encouraging given that more people are biking these days.
It seems local educational efforts, combined with a growing awareness that cable locks are evil, might be helping. Also figuring into the mix is the tightening of Portland's secondhand dealer's ordinance.
Bicycles are on the list of the City's regulated items and a renewed effort to crackdown on "fenced" property has meant shops that sell used bikes are being more closely watched by the Police Bureau.
Sergeant Troy King is the supervisor of the Police Bureau's Special Property Investigations (SPI) Unit. He worked closely with bike shop owners last year to make sure the new rules didn't adversely impact their ability to sell used bikes and to crack down on any shops that were encouraging theft by buying potentially stolen bikes.
Kings says his office reviews "buy tickets" at pawn shops and bike shops and sends out fliers to alert them of stolen property. King also says he's recovered several bikes thanks to the listings on Finetoothcog and BikePortland.org and that he is eager to work with us to "increase the success of recovering stolen bicycles".
With a strong community and allies at the Police Bureau looking out for our bikes, I like to think that someone like Igor Kenk could never pull off his tricks in Portland.Email This Post Possibly related posts