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Major bike-fencing operation operates out of two Portland buildings, Lake Oswego police say

Posted by on May 16th, 2014 at 10:15 am

Bike racks at SW 12th and Washington
where stolen bikes are frequently locked up.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Fencing operations for stolen bicycles are currently operating out of two downtown Portland buildings, Lake Oswego police say.

Det. Lee Ferguson said in an interview last week that Lake Oswego police officers tracked a handful of bikes stolen from that city to apartment buildings at SW 10th and Salmon and SW 12th and Washington. He said someone operating out of those buildings consistently purchases bicycles from people who steal them, then locks them at bike racks outside.

A third party then stops by to inspect the bikes, Ferguson said, makes arrangements to purchase them, gets a key from the fence and takes them away.

“They’re gone within hours, and they’re all very nice bikes,” Ferguson said. “He has 20 visitors a day. He’s in his 40s and these are all kids. Street kids mostly. … This sounds like, from the street people we were talking to, primiarly heroin addicts, that they’re trading it for dope.”

“They’re gone within hours, and they’re all very nice bikes… they’re trading it for dope.”
— Detective Lee Ferguson, Lake Oswego PD

Ferguson’s story is consistent with an anonymous tip received by BikePortland three weeks ago. We notified the owner of a stolen bike that had been spotted outside one of the buildings. Unfortunately, that bike was never recovered.

Ferguson said his office hasn’t been able to make any arrests in the case because it’s so difficult to prove that the buyer of a stolen bike is aware it has been stolen. Ferguson said his agency informed the Portland Police Bureau’s central precinct of the issue and was contacting BikePortland in hopes of spreading the word further.


Ferguson said the people involved in the operation are fully aware of the LO police investigation and that he didn’t believe news coverage of the issue would interfere with enforcement. In a follow-up interview Wednesday, Ferguson said the illegal operation continues.

Ferguson said the apartment manager for one of the buildings, whose shift ends at 4 p.m., has given up trying to address the situation.

“She says they literally stand outside until they know she’s going to leave,” he said. “She’s made a few calls to Portland and nothing’s really resulted either.”

In an email Tuesday, Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Peter Simpson said he would look into the issue. People who come across their stolen property, he said, should “call the non-emergency line, (503) 823-3333; or, 911 if it’s an emergency. Of course we also encourage people to file lost or stolen bike reports so that we can accurately reunite people with their property. Serial numbers are key and we can take reports online at www.portlandpolice.com.”

BikePortland and StolenBikeRegistry.com also maintain a searchable public database of stolen bikes. Listings are free.

Ferguson, the Lake Oswego detective, said his colleagues discovered the fence operation after a rash of bike thefts on their turf.

“We knew that three kids who used to live around here or still live with our parents are heroin addicts,” he said. “We picked them up downtown and talked to them and one thing led to another. … Two of our officers sort of worked it on their extra time.”

Ferguson said his office will continue to be in contact with Portland police.

“We’re going to forward them reports and we don’t know who it’s going to go to,” he said. “We can’t spend a lot of time in Portland watching bikes.”

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Comments
  • Mike Quigley May 16, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Kind of like everyone knows where the drug houses are but the cops can’t seem to do anything about them.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

    • Buzz Aldrin May 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      they know where the bars are too, but that doesn’t mean they troll them for drunk drivers, either.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Glenn May 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

    “We can’t spend a lot of time in Portland watching bikes.”

    Unless they’re rolling through a stop sign at 3 mph. But I suppose the city makes a bigger profit fining people on bicycles than jailing thieves.

    Recommended Thumb up 28

    • Spiffy May 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      LO police can’t spend a lot of time in Portland watching bikes…

      but they should turn it over to the PPB so that the PPB can spend a lot of time in Portland watching bikes…

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Todd Hudson May 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

    So it takes Lake Oswego detectives to uncover a long-running bike theft ring in downtown Portland?

    Since PPB does little about theft and fencing of bikes among thieves/addicts/vagrants/streetkids, maybe we can ask LOPD to solve that problem too.

    Recommended Thumb up 27

  • Patrick Barber May 16, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Bike fences? Can we use them to separate cycle tracks from auto traffic?

    Recommended Thumb up 11

    • Alan 1.0 May 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Wouldn’t they make great speed-bumps?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Spiffy May 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      can we use them to separate auto traffic from everything else?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • reader May 16, 2014 at 11:24 am

    “Ferguson said his office hasn’t been able to make any arrests in the case because it’s so difficult to prove that the buyer of a stolen bike is aware it has been stolen.”

    Yes, but what about proving that the SELLER knows a bike is stolen?

    Recommended Thumb up 13

    • Eric in Seattle May 17, 2014 at 7:02 am

      Isn’t simple possession of stolen property against the law? If the cops find someone in possession of $1500 worth of stolen property (like maybe a decent bike) can’t they question the person, at least get their ID? Isn’t the 3rd or 5th time they encounter such a person probable cause to arrest them?

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • John Lascurettes May 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    PPD’s lack of activity on this is just weird.

    Recommended Thumb up 21

  • GlowBoy May 16, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Wait … 10th & Salmon? Sheesh, that’s where Bike Gallery is located. Talk about brazen!

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • Rob Chapman May 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks Lake Oswego PD.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • Biker May 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Just do a sting. “Hey, I stole this bike. Want to buy it for $20?”
    “Sure”
    Busted. It would take 5 minutes.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • lyle w. May 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Gotta work on that drawn-out, sweaty, red heroin face for a few months before you try that.

      Torn bell-bottom jeans, sweaty ball cap pulled down over your eyes and some sort of shell necklace highly encouraged.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Scott H May 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Seriously, figure something out. At least make an effort to prevent Portland from becoming the wild west.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin May 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Somebody who lives nearby needs to snap a few pics of the culprits and share them so we know who to watch out for.

    Also, it seem that a lot of bike thefts and parts theft happen in broad daylight with people watching. Don’t be afraid to ask “what are you doing” in an authoritative way to someone who is messing with a bike in a weird way. If they get uppity, just get a little distance and yell “help, bike thief”.

    By the way, it helps if you do a “power-pose” while you’re talking to them: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Chris I May 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Assertiveness is an uncommon trait in Portland. It’s probably good that you mention the power pose.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

    • dwainedibbly May 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      I live nearby, but I walk around this part of downtown a lot and my looks are distinctive enough that I’d really not like to get tagged as a squealer. Somebody NOT from around here should do that.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • BIKELEPTIC May 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Umm. If you know where they are, can’t you get a search warrant? At the very least, the police could question the property manager. The LL could evict the person. It’s a “no cause eviction” if they’re suspect of illegal drug use or criminal activity with no recourse to the LL. The police just don’t effing care.

    What’s going to happen is the situation is going to escalate because everyone knows where this shiz is going down. Either some buyer is going to get into a tussle and someone is going to get hurt or someone who has gotten their bike stolen is going to get pissed off and hang out there and then it’s going to be a bad situation.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Scott H May 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    High five for Lake Oswego Police, for making PPD look like a bunch of lazy doughnut eaters.

    Recommended Thumb up 15

  • scott May 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Too bad he doesn’t do something serious like roll a stop sign or ride outside of the bike lane.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

  • Joseph E May 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    “Two of our officers sort of worked it on their extra time”

    Thank you, Lake O!

    But this should done by Portland’s officers on their regular work time.

    Recommended Thumb up 12

  • Buzz Aldrin May 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    We recently were the victims of a home burglary resulting in about $5,000.00 worth of damage to the house and loss of close to $80,000.00 worth of jewelry, musical instruments and other valuable items, and the PPB didn’t seem too interested in following up on that, either.

    The only reason we even recovered a portion of the stolen items is because my wife and I personally provided information to a number of local pawn, guitar and jewelry shops.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Alan 1.0 May 16, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    …purchases bicycles from people who steal them, then locks them at bike racks outside. A third party then stops by to inspect the bikes … makes arrangements to purchase them, gets a key from the fence and takes them away.

    Might be fun to see what happens when the key doesn’t fit the lockS.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • dwainedibbly May 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Superglue?

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Craig Harlow May 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    If your bike is stolen, carry a U-lock in your pack. If you spot your bike locked up somewhere (and you’re sure), lock it first, then call police. Also, if you spot a friend’s bike locked up somewhere and you know it has been stolen (and you’re sure), do them a favor and u-lock it, phone them, then they can phone police when they arrive to meet you.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Dmitriy Zasyatkin May 16, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Great advice! But it sounds like you can’t really rely on the police so you better have a plan B, like getting as many friends as possible together to wait around for the thief to return with their cameras ready.

      Citizens arrest is also an option for the daring.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Anna May 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      When I called the cops to help me recover my stolen bike (I found it for sale on craigslist) they told me that they don’t have time to deal with recovering stolen bikes. I’d filed a police report when it happened and had proof that it was mine, but they refused to send anyone to help me, even when I said I was going to the thief’s house to recover it myself however I had to. Their only suggestion was that I should buy my own bike back from him. I ended up stealing it back from him and it all went well, but I’m still mad.

      Recommended Thumb up 11

      • BIKELEPTIC May 17, 2014 at 6:04 pm

        I know this is after the fact, now, but the police need to be reminded that they are paid by OUR taxes. If anyone is ever given that sort of glib reply that they “don’t have time” FILE A COMPLAINT! Get as much information about the officer or call as you can (time of day/date, if you got the dispatch/officer’s name, etc) – you can have what’s called a “Civil Stand By” for almost ANY kind of situation that you may feel unsafe in and/or may escalate – so you’ll be doing all the work, talking to the thief, etc. But there’s an officer standing at the end of the driveway. So it’s still very important that you have all your documentation of ownership so the thief hopefully just breaks and hands it over.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

        • Anna May 17, 2014 at 6:13 pm

          I’ll keep that in mind for next time. I called the non-emergency line three times over the course of the day to ask for help and I think I spoke to three different dispatch people but I’m not positive about that. They all told me the same thing, that they wouldn’t/couldn’t help me. One suggested that I could try to flag down an officer if one happened to be driving by as I was approaching the bike thief’s home, but that’s it. I didn’t think to make a complaint, because they made it pretty clear that this is just how it is. I wonder if they would’ve helped me if it was a stolen car?

          Recommended Thumb up 2

  • TOM May 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Portland ..the City that works

    Welcome to Americas bicycling Capitol.

    just empty slogans.

    Recommended Thumb up 20

  • Bryan Hance May 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

    I’ve joked about having to fund a local officer via Kickstarter to help us chase bike thieves before – which is sad that it even needs joked about – but man, this is looking more like a real thing we may actually want to try. Basically it’s just overtime, right?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Bobcycle May 17, 2014 at 7:49 am

    imo many of the above comments are of the quality you expect to see on the O site, or that of local networks. a few of you insinuate incompetence or laziness by PPD. We live in a big city, police are very busy. They focus on bigger issues, unless for political reasons upper management wants to make a point, and tell their officers to ticket bikes running stop signs. Last year I left my car over night in Scapoose. I called the Scapoose PD because I thought they might have a “No Overnight Parking” law like some towns do. To my surprise later that night I received a call from an officer on patrol who said he would keep an eye on my car to make sure it was OK. That blew me away. Smaller towns with less crime can do some neat stuff. Bigger towns just tell you to e-mail them a crime report for the file.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Mossby Pomegranate May 18, 2014 at 7:47 am

      You are right on. People have no idea just how busy the police are. But remember this BikePortland where it’s cool to be passive-aggressive and talk big behind a keyboard.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • TOM May 18, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Anna
    I’ll keep that in mind for next time. I called the non-emergency line three times over the course of the day to ask for help and I think I spoke to three different dispatch people but I’m not positive about that. They all told me the same thing, that they wouldn’t/couldn’t help me. One suggested that I could try to flag down an officer if one happened to be driving by as I was approaching the bike thief’s home, but that’s it. I didn’t think to make a complaint, because they made it pretty clear that this is just how it is. I wonder if they would’ve helped me if it was a stolen car?

    I don’t know how that could be ? I have it on great authority
    ( http://www.joinportlandpolice.com/about.html ) that

    “The mission of the Portland Police Bureau is to reduce crime and the fear of crime by working with all citizens to preserve life, maintain human rights, protect property, and promote individual responsibility and community commitment.

    Values
    The organizational values of the Portland Police Bureau are:
    Integrity
    Compassion
    Accountability
    Respect
    Excellence
    Service”

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • TOM May 18, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I know !!

    Get ‘em like they got Al Capone …. “income tax evasion”.

    unless of course they declare their profits and list occupation as “bike thieves” :)

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin May 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    My limited experience with the PPD was very anti-bike friendly. I emailed safe@portlandoregon.gov to complain about speeding on a nearby neighborhood greenway and they got a police officer out there for a half-hour. The officer emailed me to let me know that most motorists were driving around 25 MPH (in a 20 MPH regular speed limit + school zone), so he didn’t give any warnings or tickets, but he did give several warnings and a ticket to cyclists rolling through a four-way stop.

    I was impressed that the City actually got an officer out there and then sadly disappointed that the police were complacent about all the motorists speeding through a school zone and park with lots of kids. Even though its only 5-10 MPH over the limit, that’s a life and death difference to someone being hit by a car.

    I am hopeful that the PPD will naturally become more bike friendly as new officers, who are cyclists, join the force, but in the mean time it sounds like you may have to bug them a lot in order for them to help you get your bike back. If you don’t get a helpful response at first, keep trying to get through to someone else.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • kww May 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    How about photos of the perps, especially the guy who lives in the building?!?!? OUT THEM, and force the PPD to take action be embarrassing them.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Eddie May 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Is there more information on how the bikes are getting stolen? Are they breaking into garages at night or just grabbing them from open ones when people aren’t around? Are they finding these “expensive” bikes via Strava or something or just watching people? I’m kinda freaked out as I live near Lake O and don’t really have a super secure place to store bikes other than my garage and certainly wouldn’t be able to lock them to anything other than themselves and I can’t seem to find much information on how these folks are operating…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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