Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 27th, 2012 at 10:39 am
“Only 28% of bike theft victims knew their bike’s serial number- making it harder for police to identify the bike if recovered.”
— From PPB Bike Theft Analysis
The Portland Police Bureau’s Crime Analysis Unit has just given us the first look at a new report on bike theft. According to the PPB’s statistics, the number of reported bike thefts has increased sharply this year, more Treks were stolen than any other brand last year, the most commonly stolen bikes are worth about $500, and the major bike theft hotspots are downtown.
The report reveals that 2,214 incidents of bike theft were reported in 2011. That is a large increase over previous years. The Portland Mercury reported in 2010 that, between May 2008 and February 2010, there were only 2,300 stolen bikes reported. PPB spokesman Pete Simpson says he believes the higher number is a reflection of both more thefts and more people actually reporting them (thanks in large part to the PPB’s new online crime reporting tool which launched in early 2010).
The 2011 analysis shows that the main bike theft hotspots are at the University of Portland, the Interstate Ave area, the Broadway area, and in southeast Portland. Check out the hotspot map below:
Downtown is by far the place where most bikes are stolen. “Only a few spots in the downtown area account for 26% of all bicycle thefts citywide,” says the report. Interestingly, there seems to be no difference in the amount of bikes stolen on the weekends versus weekdays. Given the large number of people biking to work during the week, this is surprising. The PPB says the reason could be due to, “an increase in recreational riders” on the weekends and that, “People may leave their bikes parked over night or in one particular area longer since they are not required to be at work at a particular time.”
What brand of bike is stolen most often? PPB data says that title goes to Trek (of course, there are probably more Treks sold overall too). They also presented a breakdown of stole bike values and found that $500 rigs are the most commonly taken:
While the PPB’s online crime reporting tool is becoming more popular, I think it’s still clear that more bikes are being stolen in Portland (another factor is that more people are biking in Portland each year). Here’s a chart the PPB gave me that compares the number of bike thefts reported from January 1 through February 25th for the last three years (and breaks it down between reports received via dispatch and the online reporting tool):
The BikePortland Stolen Bike Listings are another sign that bike theft is spiking this year. In that same time period we had 43 bikes listed in 2011 and that number ballooned to 93 this year.
While these numbers and trends are a concern, a silver lining is how active the PPB has been on the bike theft issue. I know many of you have stories about losing your bike and not being happy with the response you’ve gotten from police, but over the past six years or so that I’ve been around this issue, I think they’re doing a great job. They have helped recover stolen bikes and they have worked with BikePortland and others on education campaigns. Pete Simpson says they intend to continue to help decrease bike theft. He says they released this report as a service to the public, “recognizing that it’s an important part of the Portland culture.” A public awareness campaign from the PPB about bike theft might also be forthcoming.
To help prevent your bike from being stolen, the PPB recommends the following (in their words, not mine):
- Use U-Locks! Most stolen bikes reported having a cable lock that was broken and left at the scene; very few bikes using U-locks were reported stolen.
- Individuals living in ‘secure residential apartments’ should not leave their bikes outside their rooms in the hallways or unlocked in the basement. Either lock it with a U-lock in the basement or keep it inside your personal apartment.
- Local businesses and parking decks may try to open a secure parking spot for bikes instead of having riders park them openly in the street with easy access.
- Memorize your serial numbers! Only 28% of bike theft victims knew their bike’s serial number- making it harder for police to identify the bike if recovered.
- Consider double locking, especially in areas where bike theft is common.
- See the Problem Oriented Policing guide on bike theft for additional recommendations.
— Download the PPB Crime Analysis Unit’s Bike Theft Analysis Report here (PDF).